Astronomers discover rare ‘exo-Venus’ just 40 light-years away

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**Exploring Gliese 12 b: Unveiling the Mysteries of the Exo-Venus**

In the vast expanse of our universe, nestled just 40 light-years away, lies a celestial gem that has captured the attention of astronomers worldwide: Gliese 12 b, a rare type of planet dubbed an “exo-Venus.” This intriguing world, falling between the sizes of Earth and Venus, offers a tantalizing glimpse into the mysteries of planetary evolution and habitability beyond our solar system.

Discovered through a collaborative effort employing Earth-based telescopes and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), Gliese 12 b orbits its host star, Gliese 12, in a mere 12.8 Earth days. This proximity results in an exceptionally short year, painting a picture of a planetary system quite unlike our own. Yet, despite its close orbit, Gliese 12 b enjoys a relatively moderate temperature, a stark departure from the scorching extremes commonly associated with exoplanets.

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With an estimated temperature of 42°C (107°F), Gliese 12 b offers a unique opportunity for scientists to probe the complexities of planetary atmospheres. However, the true nature of its atmospheric composition remains shrouded in uncertainty. Does this exo-Venus boast an Earth-like atmosphere conducive to supporting life, or does it veer towards the oppressive conditions akin to its namesake planet, Venus?

The presence or absence of an atmosphere on Gliese 12 b holds profound implications for its habitability and the broader understanding of planetary evolution. Researchers eagerly anticipate unraveling this mystery, leveraging advanced techniques such as transmission spectroscopy to scrutinize the planet’s atmospheric makeup. Such endeavors promise not only to shed light on the potential for liquid water on Gliese 12 b’s surface but also to elucidate the intricate processes governing atmospheric development on rocky planets.

Lead author Shishir Dholakia of the University of Southern Queensland emphasizes the significance of Gliese 12 b in advancing our understanding of habitability across the galaxy. “Much of the scientific value of this planet,” Dholakia asserts, “is to understand what kind of atmosphere it could have.” Indeed, Gliese 12 b occupies a pivotal position, bridging the divide between Earth and Venus in our solar system and offering invaluable insights into the divergent evolutionary paths of these neighboring planets.

The study of Gliese 12 b transcends mere astronomical curiosity, delving into fundamental questions surrounding planetary science. Why did Earth and Venus, once potentially similar, embark on such divergent trajectories? By scrutinizing planets like Gliese 12 b, scientists endeavor to unravel the intricate interplay of factors that dictate planetary outcomes, discerning whether Earth-like or Venus-like conditions represent the prevailing norm.

Michael McElwain of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center underscores the significance of expanding our catalog of temperate planets amenable to detailed study. “To better understand the diversity of atmospheres and evolutionary outcomes for these planets,” McElwain contends, “we need more examples like Gliese 12 b.” Indeed, the quest to unlock the secrets of exoplanetary atmospheres relies on the discovery and scrutiny of worlds such as Gliese 12 b, offering tantalizing glimpses into the rich tapestry of planetary diversity beyond our cosmic doorstep.

Published in esteemed scientific journals such as the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the research heralds a new chapter in humanity’s quest to fathom the enigmatic realms of distant exoplanets. As astronomers continue to unravel the mysteries of Gliese 12 b and its ilk, we inch ever closer to unlocking the secrets of our celestial neighbors and perhaps, glimpsing the tantalizing possibilities of habitable worlds beyond our own.