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Exoplanet may be brimming with oxygen but not life, say Researchers

Astronomer Laura Schaefer and her colleagues examined the question of what would happen to GJ 1132b over time if it began with a steamy, water-rich atmosphere

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Little Cub galaxy
The Little Cub galaxy - so called because it sits in the Ursa Major or Great Bear constellation. Galaxy (Representational Image). Wikimedia

New York, August 19: A Venus-like exoplanet may have an atmosphere with oxygen but not life, researchers report, adding that their magma ocean-atmosphere model can help solve the puzzle of how Venus evolved over time.

The distant planet GJ 1132b is located just 39 light-years from Earth. It might have an atmosphere despite being baked to a temperature of around 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

“This planet might be the first time we detect oxygen on a rocky planet outside the solar system,” said study co-author Robin Wordsworth from Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Astronomer Laura Schaefer from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and her colleagues examined the question of what would happen to GJ 1132b over time if it began with a steamy, water-rich atmosphere.

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Orbiting so close to its star, at a distance of just 1.4 million miles, the planet is flooded with ultraviolet or UV light.

UV light breaks apart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, both of which then can be lost into space.

However, since hydrogen is lighter it escapes more readily, while oxygen lingers behind.

“On cooler planets, oxygen could be a sign of alien life and habitability. But on a hot planet like GJ 1132b, it’s a sign of the exact opposite — a planet that’s being baked and sterilised,” said Schaefer in a statement.

Since water vapour is a greenhouse gas, the planet would have a strong greenhouse effect, amplifying the star’s already intense heat.

As a result, its surface could stay molten for millions of years.

If any oxygen does still cling to GJ 1132b, next-generation telescopes like the Giant Magellan Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope may be able to detect and analyse it.

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Venus probably began with Earth-like amounts of water, which would have been broken apart by sunlight.

Yet it shows few signs of lingering oxygen. The missing oxygen problem continues to baffle astronomers. (IANS)

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2018 Fourth-hottest Year Since 1880; Earth Set to Get Warmer, Says NASA

"The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt a" in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change," said Schmidt

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Earth depletion
Earth depletion, Pixabay

Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880 and the planet will warm further, especially since greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to rise, Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have said.

Global temperatures in 2018 were 0.83 degrees Celsius warmer than 1951 to 1980, according to scientists at Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

Globally, 2018’s temperatures ranked behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.

“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” GISS Director Gavin Schmidt said in a statement on Wednesday.

Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 1 degree Celsius.

Kepler, NASA, tissue
NASA. Pixabay

This warming has been driven in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities.

“Weather dynamics often affect regional temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced similar amounts of warming,” said NOAA.

Warming trends are strongest in the Arctic region, where 2018 saw the continued loss of sea ice.

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“In addition, mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continued to contribute to sea level rise.

“Increasing temperatures can also contribute to longer fire seasons and some extreme weather events.

“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt a” in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Schmidt. (IANS)