It may be a bit warm for us, but Earth’s hot new neighbour will help scientists learn whether similar planets might be habitable for humans.
A new planet deemed a super-Earth has been discovered in what scientists have described as a dream.
The new rocky planet, called Gliese 486b, was found around 26 light-years away from Earth – making it a close neighbour, galatically speaking.
The planet is bigger than Earth and much hotter, with a surface temperature of 430C.
It orbits a red star and while it cant support human life, for obvious reasons, its hoped Gliese 486b will help scientists learn whether similar planets might be habitable for humans.
The findings of the planet were published on Friday in the journal Science.
An artistic impression of the newly discovered planet Gliese 486b and its nearby red dwarf star. Credit: RenderArea/ Supplied
This is the kind of planet weve been dreaming about for decades, Dr Ben Montet, an astronomer and Scientia lecturer at UNSW Science and co-author of the study said.
Weve known for a long time that rocky super-Earths must exist around the nearby stars, but we havent had the technology to search for them until recently.
This finding has the potential to transform our understanding of planetary atmospheres.
While Earth and Gliese 486b are both rocky planets, thats about all they have in common.
The new planet is 30 per cent bigger and almost three times heavier than Earth.
Its also possible that its hot surface may even be scattered with glowing lava rivers.
With a surface of 430C, you wouldnt be able to go outside without some kind of spacesuit, Montet said.
An artistic impression of the surface of Gliese 486b. Credit: RenderArea/ Supplied
The gravity is also 70 per cent stronger than on Earth, making it harder to walk and jump. Someone who weighed 50kg on Earth would feel like they weighed 85kg on Gliese 486b.
While super-Earths are not rare, Gliese 486b is special for two reasons: its heat puffs up the atmosphere and its a transiting planet, meaning it crosses over its star from Earths perspective.
Its hoped both these factors will help astronomers to take measurements and analyse its atmosphere.
Understanding super-Earths is challenging because we dont have any examples in our backyard, Montet said.
Gliese 486b is the type of planet well be studying for the next 20 years.