Gliese 486b: An Exoplanet We’ll Be Studying for Decades #SpaceSaturday

Ben Montet of the University of New South Wales would like us all to pay attention to the exoplanet Gliese 486b. Why? It’s a mere 26 light years away, which affords more opportunity for study. From here we can study it’s atmosphere, and someday we may be able to examine it for bio-signatures. Here’s more from Centauri Dreams:

…Gliese 486b is an exoplanet that has now been identified as a prime target for future space- and ground-based instruments, one that, given its proximity, is an ideal next step to push our methods forward. The paper on this work shows that two techniques can be deployed here, the first being transmission spectroscopy, when this transiting world passes in front of its star and starlight filters through the atmosphere.

So-called emission spectroscopy happens when the planet orbits around to the other side of the star, making parts of the illuminated surface visible (think phases of the Moon as an analogy). Astronomers can deploy spectrographic tools in both methods to work out the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and according to Montet, Gliese 486b is the best single planet yet found for emission spectroscopy out of all the rocky planets we know. Moreover, says the astronomer, it’s the second best for transmission spectroscopy.

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