Scientists have found a new super-Earth, relatively nearby – and it is the kind of planet they say they have been dreaming of for years.
The world could be the perfect place to better understand how atmospheres exist on rocky planets like our own that are outside the solar system, researchers say.
The new world is called Gliese 486b and is referred to as a super-Earth because it is solid and rocky like our own world, but much bigger.
Despite the name, it is in amny ways not like Earth: it is 30 per cent bigger and nearly three times heavier, and it is so hot that its surface could melt lead and lava rivers cover its surface.
It is found around a star just 26 light years away, a relatively close neighbour at the scale of the universe. Gliese 486b orbits around and close to a red dwarf star that allowed researchers to find it in the first place.
One of the reasons it is so exciting is because it is a “transiting” planet, allowing scientists to examine it as it crosses in front of its star and makes itself visible to scientists who can examine its atmosphere.
But that is not the only way that scientists are able to study the planet. It is unusual because it can be seen in two ways: as well as spotting as it crosses its stars, it can also be detected through Doppler radial velocity, which looks for planets in the way their gravity wobbles other stars, and sticking the two together could allow for even more detailed understanding of the planet and its atmosphere.