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GJ 1132b, the closest Earth-sized exoplanet yet discovered, may prove greatly beneficial in the difficult search for evidence of life beyond the Solar System.

The search will take place with current technologies such as the Hubble Space Telescope and those on the horizon, including NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the NASA/European Space Agency James Webb Space Telescope.

At 1.2 times the size of the Earth and a matching bulk density that suggests a composition of rock and iron, GJ 1132b was detected and observed over months earlier this year orbiting an M-dwarf class star, Gliese 1132, 39 light years away.

M-dwarfs, which are much smaller than the Sun, are the most common class of star in the Milky Way and are known through previous studies to host large numbers of planets that range between one-half and one-and-a-half times the size of Earth. The closest previously known planet hosting an M-dwarf star loomed more than three times as far away, making it difficult to study the dynamic qualities of possible planetary atmospheres and seek evidence of biosignatures.

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