In the time it takes you to complete a single workday, or get a full night’s sleep, a small fireball of a planet 700 light-years away has already completed an entire year.
Researchers at MIT have discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet named Kepler 78b that whips around its host star in a mere 8.5 hours — one of the shortest orbital periods ever detected. The planet is extremely close to its star — its orbital radius is only about three times the radius of the star — and the scientists have estimated that its surface temperatures may be as high as 3,000 degrees Kelvin, or more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In such a scorching environment, the top layer of the planet is likely completely melted, creating a massive, roiling ocean of lava. Details appear in a paper published in Astrophysical Journal, with physics graduate student Roberto Sanchis-Ojeda as first author.
What’s most exciting to scientists is that they were able to detect light emitted by the planet — the first time that researchers have been able to do so for an exoplanet as small as Kepler 78b. This light, once analyzed with larger telescopes, may give scientists detailed information about the planet’s surface composition and reflective properties. Continue reading at MIT NEWS. Photo by Cristina Sanchis Ojeda.