Using data from NASA’s Spitzer Telescope, a team of astronomers has produced a precision temperature map of the Super-Earth 55 Cancri e, a rocky exoplanet located 40 light years away.
To date, Kepler Space telescope has detected more than 2,000 planets outside our solar system. Many of them are planets of extreme. 55 Cancri e might be the most extreme one yet. 55 Cancri e, also named Janssen, was discovered on 30 August 2004. It is located approximately 40 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Cancer. It orbits very close to its parent star, a main-sequence star not too different than the Sun. A complete orbit around its star takes fewer than 18 hours, such close path induce extreme temperature on planet’s surface. This super Earth is a planet of extreme due to its super hot surface’ temperature. So how hot is 55 Cancri e?
On Wednesday, NASA unveiled the temperature-map of this super earth. 55 Cancri e is a place you really, really don’t want to be. Scientists found a dramatic difference in planet temperature, a variation of almost 1,300°C. It’s 1,100°C (2,000°F) there… on the night side and crispy 2,400°C (4,400°F) on the day side.
The difference between the two is of around 2,340 degrees.
Astrophysicist Brice Olivier Demory affirmed.
This indicates the planet inefficiently transports heat around the planet. We propose this could be explained by an atmosphere that would exist only on the day side of the planet, or by lava flows at the planet surface.
These extreme temperatures would melt lead. In fact, on the day side, would even melt sapphires. The difference between the two hemispheres is mind-boggling. This mean either this planet has no atmosphere at all or its atmosphere is curiously bad at transporting heat.
The day side could possibly have rivers of lava and big pools of extremely hot magma, but we think the night side would have solidified lava flows like those found in Hawaii,
said Michael Gillon.
The study, published in the science journal Nature, details how astronomers used infra-red sensors to map the conditions on 55 Cancri-e surface.
By understanding the characteristics of the instrument — and using novel calibration techniques of a small region of a single pixel — we are attempting to eke out every bit of science possible from a detector that was not designed for this type of high-precision observation,
said Jessica Krick of NASA’s Spitzer Space Science Center.
55 Cancri e is relatively close to us thus astronomers studying it extensively. Many scientific papers were published; first, it was believed that 55 Cancri e is a world covered in water. Another researcher suggests that it might be made of diamond. Now, we are leaning that this planet is a world of lava.
We still don’t know exactly what this planet is made of — it’s still a riddle,
These results are like adding another brick to the wall, but the exact nature of this planet is still not completely understood.
55 Cancri e is also tidally locked to its host star like our moon is to Earth. In other words, it could look something like this:
So, astronomers think that a possible explanation for planet’s extreme temperature could be its ‘own’ atmosphere. 55 Cancri e may possess an atmosphere only on the dayside; on the night side, the atmosphere would freeze out.
We are far from having a comprehensive picture of this exoplanet,
Demory told Space.com.
It is likely that Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will help in our understanding of this surprising world.