Planet ‘regrew’ its atmosphere after losing it

It seems that atmospheres can be regrown. Image Credit: NASA / ESA / R. Hurt (IPAC/Caltech)

Astronomers have identified an extrasolar planet that appears to have regenerated its own atmosphere.While there are plenty of known examples of planets that have lost their atmosphere (such as Mars), it now seems as though it is possible – on rare occasions – for a planet’s atmosphere to regenerate.

Situated 41 light years away, the catchily titled exoplanet GJ 1132 b is, at first glance, not dissimilar to the Earth as both have similar densities, atmospheric pressures and ages.

Unlike the Earth however, this intriguing world started out life as a gas giant before having its atmosphere stripped away due to a close encounter with a neighboring red dwarf star.

Scientists now believe that the resulting rocky core later managed to produce its own replacement atmosphere of molecular hydrogen, hydrogen cyanide and methane.

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