2019
October
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A planet that shouldn’t exist

GJ 3512 is a red dwarf. The star is about 31 light-years from us and has only 12% the mass of the Sun. But as far as the size of its companions go, GJ 3512 doesn’t hold back. As a German and Spanish research team has discovered, it has a gas giant with a mass of almost half our Jupiter. “Such stars should actually only have Earth-sized planets or at most super-Earths with slightly more mass,” says Professor Christoph Mordasini of the Physics Institute at the University of Bern, discussing plausible scenarios for the formation of the large exoplanet with his team. “In contrast, GJ 3512b is a giant planet with a mass approximately half as large as that of Jupiter, and thus at least one order of magnitude more massive than the planets predicted by theoretical models for such small stars.”

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Water vapor in the atmosphere of an inhabitable rocky planet

There’s no shortage of water in the universe. Water molecules have even been found in the cold interstellar medium. After hydrogen, water is the second most abundant substance in the atmosphere of hot gas planets. Neptune, Uranus, and their siblings in space are not called ice giants for no reason – they also contain a large amount of water ice.

On rocky planets, water could be a sign of good conditions for life. This, however, would also depend on where the water is located. Researchers already think that some planets have large quantities of water due to their densities. But a deep ocean extending across an entire celestial body wouldn’t be very suitable for life as we know it (and that’s the only form of life that we can talk about with some certainty).

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