Astronomers have found a planet many light years away from Earth that could be described as Planet Hell, considering the planet lacks an atmosphere and shows molten lava on its surface. Researchers from NASA were able to analyze the red planet’s atmosphere, making it the first time the atmosphere of an exoplanet can be effectively acquired. The red planet over 40 light years away from Earth is called 55 Cancri E and is one among five other planets to orbit its host star in the Cancer Constellation.
The study, that also made a breakthrough as astronomers could determine an accurate weather map for 55 Cancri E, was published on Tuesday in the journal Nature. Astronomers found 55 Cancri E to be one of the most sweltering planets known so far, with standard temperatures reaching up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. 55 Cancri E gains the name of Planet Hell with no difficulty, due to the impressive amounts of molten lava running on the surface like water on Earth.
Also, researchers found a hot spot on 55 Cancri E that may be the hottest place ever discovered in a planet. The findings were possible thanks to a team of researchers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to analyze the exoplanet’s atmosphere for the first time ever. They were able to analyze the planet’s atmosphere as well as the conditions it endures, which gave them sufficient evidence to demonstrate that 55 Cancri E is the most accurate depiction of hell for now.
The planet counts with a particularly odd behavior, similar to the Earth’s moon. The exoplanet not only counts with extreme temperatures that allow molten lava to run through the surface but also has dramatic temperature exchanges. Thanks to a team of astronomers at NASA led by Brice-Olivier Demory it is now known that the planet, very much like the Moon, has one side always facing its host star while the other remains dark for most of the time.
Moon-like behavior may explain the planet’s condition
This means the red exoplanet is combining both nighttime and daytime geological activity, which results in two different conditions showed in 55 Cancri E. While the scorching side withstands temperatures reaching almost 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the not-so-hot side, remains at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lead author of the study Brice Demory, an astrophysicist from the University of Cambridge suggests the planet 55 Cancri E doesn’t distribute its heat properly. This would explain both conditions experienced by the red planet from the Cancer Constellation.
Although the difference is about half of the temperature between both sides of the exoplanet, one side appears to be rocky and solid while the other side is fluctuant and filled with smoldering lava. Many theories explaining how and why the planet shows such bizarre conditions still require more data for researchers to back them up.
But considering the planet was discovered in 2004 and 12 years had to pass for astronomers to make a breakthrough looking at the planet’s atmosphere, theories will be proven shortly after more data is gathered. And as technology keeps growing and new technologies are being applied in telescopes, this is only the beginning of a new age of better understanding exoplanets.