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Researchers discover potentially habitable planet resembling Earth, possibly harboring extraterrestrial life.

Researchers have uncovered a new Earth-like planet, potentially accommodating alien life forms, located a mere 40 light-years away. This discovery stands out in the quest for habitable worlds, as the planet, named Gliese 12b, is slightly smaller and marginally warmer than Earth. Unlike many exoplanets, which are typically larger and hotter than Earth, Gliese 12b offers unique insights that may aid in identifying other potentially hospitable planets. Even if it doesn't harbor extraterrestrial life, its existence promises to advance our exploration of other celestial bodies.

The planet completes an orbit around its host star every 12.8 days and shares a size akin to Venus—slightly smaller than Earth. With an estimated surface temperature of 42°C, it stands out among the 5,000-plus confirmed exoplanets, showcasing a relatively lower temperature compared to its counterparts.

Astronomers propose that Gliese 12 b could be one of the rare planets where humans might theoretically survive. However, uncertainties persist regarding its atmospheric composition, or if it possesses one at all.Understanding the planet's atmosphere is crucial, as it could determine whether the conditions are conducive to liquid water—and potentially life—existing on its surface.

Masayuki Kuzuhara, a project assistant professor at the Astrobiology Centre in Tokyo, co-leading one research team with Akihiko Fukui, remarked, “We've discovered the nearest, transiting, temperate, Earth-size world known to date. Although we haven't confirmed its atmosphere yet, we've been likening it to an exo-Venus, given its similar size and energy received from its star compared to our solar system neighbor.”

Professor Thomas Wilson from the University of Warwick, involved in the discovery, utilized NASA's satellite data to confirm the planet's characteristics. He expressed, “This discovery is tremendously exciting and will enrich our understanding of Earth-like planets. Regrettably, Gliese 12 b is quite distant for direct exploration. The light we're observing now originated 40 years ago—illustrating the vast distances in space.”

Using observations from NASA's TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), two teams, one based in Tokyo, contributed to the discovery.Gliese 12, the planet's parent star, is a cool red dwarf in the Pisces constellation, only 27% of the Sun's size, with about 60% of its temperature.

While Gliese 12 b isn't the first Earth-like exoplanet found, NASA suggests only a handful of similar worlds warrant closer examination. It's been proposed as a potential target for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, offering insights into whether most Milky Way stars can host habitable, temperate planets with atmospheres.Despite its proximity to its star, just 7% of Earth-Sun distance, Gliese 12 b receives 1.6 times more energy, a key factor in atmosphere retention.

Shishir Dholakia, a doctoral student at the University of Southern Queensland, co-leading a research team with Larissa Palethorpe, emphasized, “Gliese 12 b is a prime target to study whether Earth-size planets orbiting cool stars can retain atmospheres, crucial for understanding habitability across our galaxy.”

Dr. Vincent Van Eylen, a co-author from UCL, noted, “GJ12b's size mirrors Earth's, and its proximity to a small star implies Earth-like temperatures. While not a guarantee of habitability, it's a promising starting point. With its proximity, telescopes like JWST will offer deeper insights into the planet and its atmosphere in the coming years.”


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