Discovering Earth-like planet may be the main reason for spacecraft searching exoplanets, as new planets outside our Solar System are found each day. Searching for planets that share the Earth’s characteristics and thus, that could support life has become one of the main goals for this generation’s astrophysicists.
Even though researchers have come a long way since the first exoplanets were discovered back in the 90s, finding a planet so far away presents a difficult task to achieve. However, thanks to the non-stop developing new technologies, the list of exoplanets grow larger every day. Yet, identifying them could be an even tougher task to complete, considering every planet is thousands of light years away, and can’t be seen by using a telescope.
The process is so challenging, astrophysicists compare it to trying to spot a firefly circling a lighthouse, from a remote location reaching tens of thousands of miles. Still, it’s not impossible as astronomers could identify a new class of exoplanet recently, thanks to data provided by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. First of all, the Kepler Space Telescope – which is currently in Emergency Mode – has the main mission to explore space looking out for exoplanets who resemble Earth.
Yet the new planet discovered is far from what someone would expect Earth-like planets to look like, as the planet lacks an atmosphere and makes it vulnerable to every source of radiation. The Earth’s atmosphere could be one of the most underestimated parts of the planet, given that it acts as a shield from ultraviolet rays as well as it dims the sun’s effect on the planet’s surface.
BIG UPDATE! We just put in 40 NEW planets! The big summer-update rush is just beginning, so we'll be completely up-to-date by summer's end!
— exoplanets.org (@ExoplanetsOrg) June 10, 2015
A planet without atmosphere is a planet not worth having
Now, the findings from a team of astrophysicists from the University of Birmingham show what would happen to Earth if removed from its atmosphere. For the first time, the team of astrophysicists was able to obtain evidence of what happens when a planet is too close to its host star.
The findings published in the journal Nature Communications on Monday give an accurate outlook on the effects on a planet without the atmosphere. This proximity to its host star is causing the planet – discovered thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope – to be directly struck by the sun’s flames and UV rays.
According to the team of astrophysicists at the University of Birmingham, the planet discovered is categorized as a Super-Earth, given that is significantly greater than Earth in both mass and length.
Still, the findings could be used to predict if this kind of event will happen in our Solar System in upcoming years. And considering the sun is approaching its final stage, where it will expand to create a red giant sun, it’s a good idea to study how the sun can impact its nearest planets.