Volcanic activity may have a given planet its second atmosphere
Today’s Video of the Day from NASA Goddard describes new evidence that a distant planet may have lost its atmosphere but gained a second one through volcanic activity.
Based on Hubble images, scientists were surprised to observe what they believe to be a “secondary atmosphere” around the planet GJ 1132 b.
“It’s super exciting because we believe the atmosphere that we see now was regenerated, so it could be a secondary atmosphere,” said study co-author Raissa Estrela. “We first thought that these highly irradiated planets could be pretty boring because we believed that they lost their atmospheres. But we looked at existing observations of this planet with Hubble and said, ‘Oh no, there is an atmosphere there.'”
According to the researchers, the findings could have implications for other planets beyond our solar system.
“How many terrestrial planets don’t begin as terrestrials? Some may start as sub-Neptunes, and they become terrestrials through a mechanism that photo-evaporates the primordial atmosphere. This process works early in a planet’s life, when the star is hotter,” said study lead author Mark Swain.
“Then the star cools down and the planet’s just sitting there. So you’ve got this mechanism where you can cook off the atmosphere in the first 100 million years, and then things settle down. And if you can regenerate the atmosphere, maybe you can keep it.”
Video Credit: NASA Goddard
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