Scientists haven’t had any luck finding Earth’s twin yet, but they have stumbled across its cousin. The planet tagged GJ1132b is around 1.2 times the size of Earth, and made up mostly of rock and iron. However, it does happen to be 39 light years away so we won’t be going there anytime soon – or ever, probably.
The planet was discovered using the MEarth-South telescope that monitors red dwarf stars and looks for planets that pass in front of their host stars, causing a dimming effect.
Even with its far off distance it’s an incredibly exciting discovery for space explorers as the planet is the closest Earth-sized planet to be found outside our solar system (the next closest one being 127 light years away). Unfortunately, its climate is closer to Venus than Earth, so even if we did manage to send a space shuttle there, we’d be subjected to a hellish climate with temperatures 278°F (136°C) and 584°F (306°C).
“The planet is much hotter than Earth, much hotter even than Venus. It’s very close to its host star, which bakes it to a temperature of 500K, about as hot as your oven will go,” said Dr Berta-Thompson, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Even at that temperature, the planet is captivating to scientists since many rock planets have temperatures soaring above 2,000°F. Obviously, this crosses out any possibility of water being on the planet, but experts think that if there had been water on its surface at one time, it could have oxygen and carbon dioxide in its atmosphere. Experts at this point have no way to confirm this though and are only making assumptions on possible scenarios.
Scientists are hoping the James Webb Space Telescope to be launched in 2018 will be able to measure light coming from the planet and offer more details. “This planet is going to be a favorite target of astronomers for years to come,” said Berta-Thompson.