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Close-by exoplanet may have an oxygen-rich atmosphere

Engadget logo Engadget 22/08/2016 Jon Fingas
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At last, scientists might have spotted a rocky exoplanet with an oxygen-heavy atmosphwere... only it's not the alternate Earth you might be hoping for. Astronomers have determined that GJ 1132b (aka Gliese 1132b), a relatively close 39 light years away, stands a real chance of having oxygen-rich skies. However, it's also scorching hot at 450F (232C). With that kind of heat, any water vapor would have a greenhouse effect -- the atmosphere would cook the surface (turning it into a magma ocean) and eliminate any hope of life.

That's not to say the discovery is a bust. GJ 1132b could help make sense of Venus, which may have started out as a watery planet but faced a runaway greenhouse gas effect that deprived it of oxygen and turned it hostile. If there's any oxygen left, you may be looking at a proto-Venus that hasn't quite finished its transition. And even if that's not the case, the model used here could explain other exoplanets.


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