Astronomers were intrigued by a distant planet GJ 1132b after its discovery last year. This planet has a temperature of approximately 450 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas it is situated just 39 light-years from Earth.
A Harvard astronomer Laura Schaefer and her team looked at the query of what would happen to GJ 1132b over a period of time if it began with a steamy, water-rich atmosphere.
The planet orbits around its star at a distance of only 1.4 million miles and is overflowing with ultraviolet or UV light. UV light breaks apart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen and these can be lost into space. While hydrogen is lighter it escapes on a faster rate, whereas oxygen remains behind.
The planet has a strong greenhouse effect, adding to the star’s already extreme heat, since water vapor is a greenhouse gas. As a result, the surface could stay molten for millions of years.
Laura Schaefer stated that “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 sterilized”.
Only about one-tenth of a “magma ocean” would interact with the atmosphere absorbing some of the oxygen. Whereas the remaining 90% of the oxygen streams into the space.
The model of the magma-ocean atmosphere can assist scientists to explain how Venus evolved over time. Most likely Venus began with Earthlike amounts of water, which would have been broken down by sunlight. Yet little signs of lingering oxygen is seen. The problem of the lost oxygen continues to puzzle astronomers.
Schaefer forecast that this model will offer insights into other, alike exoplanets. This work has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.