Scientists recently made a discovery that they believe could make the search for extraterrestrial life easier. In an article published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a team of researchers explains how an Earth-like planet orbiting the most common type of star in the universe, an M dwarf, appears to have no atmosphere. This means that most of the other Earth-like planets orbiting all the other M-dwarfs are also likely to have no atmosphere.
“It’s possible this planet’s condition could be a bad sign for planets even further away from this type of star,” said Michelle Hill, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Riverside, and co-author of the study. “This is what we will learn from the James Webb space telescope, which will look at similar planets.”
However, Hill is somewhat optimistic, saying that if a planet is far enough from an M dwarf, it could “potentially retain an atmosphere.”
The planet without an atmosphere that scientists focused on is called GJ 1252b. It’s slightly larger than Earth, so it’s considered “Earth-like,” but it’s much closer to its star than our planet is to the Sun, which means its surface is incredibly hot. So hot that, according to infrared data from GJ 1252b, its daytime temperature reaches 1,228 degrees Celsius.
This extreme heat, combined with the presumed low surface pressure, led researchers to believe that GJ 1252b could not have an atmosphere.