exoplanet, GJ 1132b, atmosphere, space,
Researchers have detected an atmosphere around a near-Earth-size planet, GJ 1132b, located 39 light-years away, depicted here in an artist's impression.MPIA

The presence of an atmosphere has been detected on exoplanet GJ 1132b, situated around 39 light years away from Earth.

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The exoplanet is 1.6 times larger than Earth, the breakthrough study revealed.

The team of researchers who made this discovery, was led by Dr John Southworth from Keele University.

Astronomers detected the atmosphere with the help of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) located in Chile.

GJ 1132b orbits a dwarf star, GJ 1132, in the Southern constellation Vela. When the exoplanet was intially discovered, it was found to have a rocky surface with an extreme temperature.

The exoplanet was referred to as a potential Venus twin by researchers; they have now discovered that the exoplanet, like Venus, possesses a dense atmosphere, with a distinctive composition.

Even the slightest dip in the planet's luminosity can be measured by researchers while the planet absorbs the light of its host star.

"While this is not the detection of life on another planet, it's an important step in the right direction: the detection of an atmosphere around the super-Earth GJ 1132b marks the first time that an atmosphere has been detected around an Earth-like planet other than Earth itself," Dr John Southworth, in a statement.

Researchers have been hunting for alien life on other planets by analysing the chemical composition of their atmospheres. They try to spot chemical imbalances on those planets that could have been induced by living organisms, just like the presence of oxygen on Earth points towards the existence of life.

"Whilst we're still a long way from detecting life on exoplanets, this discovery is the first step," Dr Southworth said in a statement.

"With this research, we have taken the first tentative step into studying the atmospheres of smaller, Earth-like, planets. We simulated a range of possible atmospheres for this planet, finding that those rich in water and/or methane would explain the observations of GJ 1132b. The planet is significantly hotter and a bit larger than Earth, so one possibility is that it is a 'water world' with an atmosphere of hot steam," he stated further.