Gliese 486 b is the terrestrial planet outside the solar system most studied by scientists

Deepak Gupta June 27, 2022
Updated 2022/06/27 at 10:12 PM

In 2021, a super-Earth was made known to the world and some data left open that it could be a very interesting exoplanet. The planet, which has been named Gliese 486 b, orbits the red dwarf star Gliese 486, 26 light-years away from Earth. An international scientific team, led by the Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA), has measured the mass and radius of an Earth-like exoplanet with unprecedented precision.

The interest and work developed in this new world found “close to us” made it possible to predict what the structure and composition of its interior could be like, as well as its atmosphere. The data is very interesting.

Is this exoplanet a place where humans could live?

The planet was welcomed with great anticipation. As such, the researchers used data from several ground and space telescopes, such as CHARA, CHEOPS, Hubble, MAROON-X, TESS and CARMENES, to model the interior of exoplanet Gliese 486 b.

In this way, the team of astronomers, led by José A. Caballero, managed to estimate the relative dimensions of its metallic core and rocky mantle. Details were published in the magazine Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The team also made predictions about the composition of this planet's atmosphere, discovered in 2021, as well as its detectability by the James Webb Space Telescope, which will soon point its mirror at the planetary system to which it belongs.

Gliese 486 b has become the Rosetta stone of exoplanetology. In the solar system we have the terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, and it is now the fifth best studied terrestrial planet in the universe.

Said José A. Caballero (CAB).

Although this is one of the closest known transit planets, traveling at 10% the speed of light at all times, it would take 260 years for a probe to reach it.

Gliese 486 bea future exoplanetary science

In the presentation of this work, the researcher already pointed to more studies, such as the formation of planetary magnetic fields in the outer core with liquid metals, as Gliese 486 b appears to have one like our Earth. These magnetic fields can act as a shield against stellar host storms and prevent erosion of the atmosphere.

According to the team, several questions remain unanswered: could such an atmosphere be primitive and made of hydrogen and helium, or composed of carbon dioxide and water vapor from volcanic eruptions, and could Gliese 486 b have tectonic activity?

While this exoplanet appears too hot to be habitable, its accurate characterization could make it the first exoplanet – and so far the only one – where these pertinent questions can be asked. Just a few years ago, trying to find answers was considered science fiction.

The first exoplanet around a star similar to our Sun, the 51 Pegasi bwas discovered in 1995. Every year since then, the astronomical community has found exoplanets that are becoming less massive, closer and more similar to Earth.

Although most of them are not habitable, transiting planets - such as Gliese 486 b - are of most interest to the astronomical community because they make it possible to investigate their atmospheres and, only for planetary systems closest to our Sun, their interiors.

The CARMENES project, whose consortium is made up of eleven research institutions from Spain and Germany, has discovered three of the eight closest systems thanks to such transiting planets, the last of which was announced last week.

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