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Worlds without end: Astronomers have detected an atmosphere around an Earth-sized exoplanet 39 light years away.
The researchers pored over measurements from the European Southern Observatory in Chile and found that at one wavelength band of light, the planet looked larger than at others, as it crossed the face of its parent star. “These things don’t pop up in the way you expect,” said John Southworth, an astronomer at Keele University in the UK. “We found evidence for the atmosphere at one wavelength band and that wasn’t what we were expecting.”
The observations point to an atmosphere that is rich in water or methane, but it will take more measurements with other telescopes to identify the chemicals present.
The planet is about 16% larger than Earth. There remain a lot of uncertainty here with this result, so we should not yet take it too seriously.