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New Exoplanet Gliese 12b: A Potential Haven for Life

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A team of scientists has discovered a new exoplanet named Gliese 12b, which lies approximately 40 light-years away from Earth, according to a recent report.

Using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), researchers identified Gliese 12b, a planet smaller than Earth but larger than Venus. This exoplanet orbits a small star in the Pisces constellation. The star is about 27% the size of our Sun and has 60% of its temperature. Detailed findings on this discovery have been published in the Monthly Notices journal of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Surface Temperature and Habitability

The study reveals that the surface temperature of Gliese 12b averages around 42 degrees Celsius, which is notably cooler than most of the over 5,200 exoplanets discovered to date. In comparison, Earth’s average surface temperature is about 15 degrees Celsius.

Exoplanets are planets that exist outside our solar system, and Gliese 12b is currently the closest known exoplanet to Earth. However, with the fastest spacecraft available today, it would take approximately 225,000 years to reach Gliese 12b.

Potential for Water and Life

Gliese 12b orbits its star every 12.8 days. The star has seven orbiting planets, all similar in size to Earth and likely rocky. Notably, three of these planets reside in the habitable zone—the region around a star where conditions might be right for liquid water to exist.

The habitable zone is crucial as it determines whether a planet can sustain liquid water, essential for life as we know it. Earth’s position in the habitable zone has allowed it to retain water, unlike Venus, which lost its water due to a greenhouse effect.

Scientific Insights and Future Exploration

Masayuki Kuzuhara, a project assistant professor at the Astrobiology Center in Tokyo, expressed excitement about this discovery, highlighting it as the nearest Earth-sized, temperate world found so far. Kuzuhara, along with co-leader Akihiko Fukui, emphasized the significance of identifying Earth-like planets with similar temperatures to facilitate atmospheric analysis for signs of life, particularly water.

Larissa Palethorpe, a doctoral student at the University of Edinburgh and University College London, noted that while it is currently impossible to reach Gliese 12b due to its distance, the discovery remains a significant milestone. The new exoplanet represents one of the few promising candidates for the possibility of life.

Implications of Exoplanet Discoveries

NASA’s exoplanet program aims to find signs of life beyond Earth. Discovering exoplanets like Gliese 12b helps address profound questions about our origins, the emergence of life, and our future in the cosmos. Whether or not we find life, these discoveries will fundamentally alter our understanding of our place in the universe.

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