Earth-like planet may have atmosphere

39 light years away from Earth is a planet like ours that appears to have an atmosphere. The atmosphere is the layer of gas that surrounds Earth and it is the atmosphere that makes it possible for life to occur on Earth.

The planet, called GJ 1132b is about one and a half times the size of Earth and it orbits (goes around) a dwarf star (refers to a star that is much smaller than our Sun) in the constellation of Vela.

The planet passes in front of its star every one and a half days. As it does, the star becomes slightly fainter r(less bright) as the planet and its atmosphere block the light. Scientists working in countries like Germany took images of this. The amount of light blocked helped them work out that the planet GJ 1132b had an atmosphere.

Studies by the scientists indicate that the planet may be a ‘water-world’ with an atmosphere of hot steam. It may also be rich in methane, a gas that is an indication of life on the planet.