Bearing the slightly wordy name of GJ 1132b, the new neighbour is a rocky, Earth-sized planet that's located only 39 light-years away from us in the Vela constellation, which is visible from the southern hemisphere.
Credit: Dana Berry/MIT
Based on their measurements, the scientists have determined that the planet is a roasting 500° F (260° C), and it is likely tidally locked, meaning that it has a permanent day and night side — presenting the same face to its star, much like our Moon is locked to Earth.
Because of its scorching temperatures, GJ 1132b most likely cannot retain liquid water on its surface, making it uninhabitable for life as we know it. However, scientists say it is cool enough to host a substantial atmosphere.
The planet is also close enough to Earth that scientists may soon be able to find out much more about its characteristics, from the composition of its atmosphere to the pattern of its winds — and even the color of its sunsets.
Video: New Earth-like exoplanet discovered
Most of Earth-like or Earth-size planets known to science are hundreds or thousands of light-years away. Kepler-452b, discovered this past July and dubbed the most Earth-like planet found so far, is 1,400 light-years from Earth. Conversely, the recently discovered HD 219134b is only 21 light years from Earth, but is 4.5 times more massive as our home planet.
It takes 1.6 days for GJ 1132b to make a single trip around Gliese 1132, its parent star (which means its orbit is smaller than Mercury's). This is a bonus for astronomers because it means the planet is frequently in view.
Research Paper: Nature