New Planet, Gliese 832 C, Could Support Life

gliese 832

Astronomers have discovered a new, earth-like, planet called Gliese 832 C that could support life. The planet is suggested to have the same temperatures as Earth, but with much larger seasonal shifts. The atmospheres from the two planets are very similar.

Dr. Robert A. Wittenmyer, a researcher who specializes in the discovery and identification of extrasolar planets at UNSW Australia, and his peers located the “Super Earth” in orbit around the neighboring red dwarf star, Gliese 832 approximately 16 light years away.

The newly discovered planet is believed to be the closest quality of habitability found. It is the latest addition to the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog; which, now, contains 24 subjects of interest. According to the University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo’s Planetary Habitability Laboratory, the Super Earth is has a mass five times greater than Earth’s and an orbital period of 36 days.

Gliese 832 C’s higher temperatures, brought on by the seasonal shifts, make the surface temperatures fall somewhere in between Earth’s and Venus’s temperatures. Which means, theoretically, humans would need some protection from the harsh weather to survive on it. The Earth Similarity Index (ESI) of Gliese 832 C is 0.81, which is greater than any other discovered planet’s ESI. However, the lab stated that other unknown characteristics such as bulk composition could make the planet uninhabitable.

Representations of the newly discovered exoplanet portray it as a temperate world covered in clouds. Based on the comparable size of the planet, it is hypothesized to possess a rocky composition and consist of primarily gas and ice. The most important factor in determining whether the newly discovered planet, Gliese 832 C, could support life is temperature. Earth’s average equilibrium temperature is 255K, Gliese 832 C’s is a very close 253K. However, the new planet does have a high eccentricity that can cause large temperature shifts of up to 25K.

The newly discovered planet orbits around the star Gliese 832: also known as HD 204961 or LHS 368. The star is located in the Grus constellation (about 16 light years away from Earth), and it is approximately half the radius and mass of the sun. The star also harbors Gliese 832B, a Jupiter-like planet discovered in 2009.

Professor Chris Tinney,  an astronomer with the University of New South Wales and co-author of the discovery study, said the planetary system orbiting the star is a miniature version of the solar system. The Earth-like planet receives the same amount of energy as Earth does annually. 

Tinney agreed that the new planet, Gliese 832 C, could support life given the atmosphere and temperature. The discoverers of the planet utilized the 6.5-m Magellan Telescope, Anglo-Australian Telescope, and the European Southern Observatory 3.6-m telescope. 

The astronomers said that it will be interesting to see whether more similarities between the solar system and the Gliese 832 planetary system will surface. The exoplanet has a closer orbit to its star than Earth’s, but because the star is red dwarf (cooler and dimmer than the sun), it receives about the same amount of energy as Earth. Wittenmyer and his team have published a study of their findings in the Astrophysics Journal.

By Andres Loubriel

Huffington Post

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