Hubble: This exoplanet likely regenerated its atmosphere after completely losing it

The planet GJ 1132 b, about 41 light years away, fascinates scientists because of its similarity to Earth. Its mass is about 1.6 times that of our world with a radius of 1.4 larger. The exoplanet revolves around a red dwarf that is five times smaller than our sun and 200 times less luminous. Its name is derived from that of its host star. The latter is called GJ 1132 based on the German astronomers Wilhelm Gliese and Hartmut Jahreiß.

A new atmosphere thanks to volcanic activity

After inspecting photos taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, US space agency astronomers determined that GJ 1132b had likely lost its atmosphere in the very distant past, but received another one due to volcanic activity.

“It’s super exciting because we think the atmosphere we’re seeing has been regenerated. So it could be a secondary atmosphere, ”said Raissa Estrela, co-author of the study and exoplanet scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in a statement.

In orbit near its star

According to the researchers, this secondary atmosphere of GJ 1132 b consists of molecular hydrogen, hydrogen cyanide, and methane. They also evoke the presence of a hydrogen vapor, reminiscent of smog on the blue planet. Astronomers believe it came from hydrogen in the primordial atmosphere.

In orbit near its star. Image credit: NASA

The gas was reportedly sucked into the exoplanet’s molten magma mantle after it warmed up under the influence of intense radiation from its host star. In fact, GJ 1132 b orbits the latter at an earlier short distance, and this with the same side still facing the shining star.

A very thin crust

The way GJ 1132b rotates around GJ 1132 is therefore similar to the way the moon rotates around the earth. The orbital period is 1.5 days, which is slightly longer than the time it takes for the blue planet to turn. In addition, it turns out that this new planet, which has been studied by NASA, is more or less the same age as us and is between 4.5 and 5 billion years old.

Obviously, the exoplanet’s crust is very thin. The reason why its surface is flat and therefore devoid of relief. The strange atmosphere is said to be the result of gases escaping from the planet’s molten rock and passing through the cracks in the thin crust before they reach a certain height.