A year that lasts only eight hours: such is the time on this exoplanet

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If you think there aren’t enough hours in a day on Earth, this newfound planet will drive you crazy. On an exoplanet called GJ 367b that is orbiting a star 31 light-years away from the sun, a year lasts only about eight hours. The discovery could illuminate these mysterious worlds in rapid orbit.

The rocky exoplanet is considered an ultra-short period, or USP, planet that revolves around its host star and completes a full orbit in eight hours. But the GJ 367b is intriguing for other reasons too.

The planet is about the size of Mars — roughly half the mass of Earth — making it one of the lightest exoplanets ever discovered. About 86% of the planet’s interior is formed by an iron and nickel core, which also makes it very similar to Mercury. In our solar system, Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, and a year on it lasts 88 days.

Exoplanet GJ 367 b is extremely close to its dwarf star M. These cool red dwarf stars are common in our galaxy and are known to host several planets in a single system, averaging between two and three planets. Even though they are smaller and cooler than the sun, these dwarf stars can still warm planets when they are as close as GJ 367b is to their host star.

During the day, this planet reaches 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit (1,500 degrees Celsius), which is hot enough to melt rocks and metals. The planet is also bombarded with 500 times more radiation than the Earth receives from the sun.

All of these factors suggest that the planet lacks a substantial atmosphere, which was probably vaporized a long time ago, and is not a favorable place for life. A study detailing the findings about the planet was published on Thursday (2) in the journal Science.

Astronomers are eager to learn more about these tiny planets that quickly revolve around their host stars in less than 24 hours because they’re not sure how they’re gone and end up in such an extreme orbit. This newly discovered planet is close enough to our solar system that researchers are able to obtain more data from it than from any other known ultra-short period planet.

“We already know some of them, but their origins are currently unknown,” said the study’s lead author, Kristine WF Lam, a postdoctoral researcher at the Planetary Research Institute at the German Aerospace Center. “By measuring the ultrafast planet’s precise fundamental properties, we can get an idea of ​​the system’s formation and its historical evolution.”

Just because GJ 367b isn’t habitable doesn’t mean there aren’t other planets in the same system that could support life.

“For this class of star, the habitable zone would be somewhere between a two to three week orbit,” co-author George Ricker, senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, said in a statement. “As this star is very close to us and very bright, we have a good chance of seeing other planets in the same system. It’s like there’s a sign saying ‘Look here for more planets!’.”

Scientists found the GJ 367b through NASA’s TESS planet-hunting mission. The acronym TESS stands for Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Ricker is the principal investigator operating TESS, which looks for changes in the luminosity of nearby stars.

When researchers observe drops in starlight, it suggests that a planet is passing in front of a star, a movement known as a transit. In 2019, TESS observed for a month a patch of sky that included the red dwarf star GJ 367, which led to the discovery of its planetary companion in close proximity to it. Later observations with ground-based telescopes helped them define measurements such as mass, radius and density, which then allowed the researchers to identify the core’s composition.

Scientists plan to continue studying the exoplanet and its host star so they can find out if there are other planets in the system. These potential sister exoplanets as well as their orbits could help reveal how GJ 367b came about.

“Understanding how these planets get so close to their host stars is a bit of a detective story,” Natalia Guerrero, research associate for TESS at MIT’s Kavli Institute, said in a statement. “Why is this planet losing its outer atmosphere? How did he get close? Was this process calm or violent? We hope this system gives us a little more clarification.”

(Translated text. Read the original here).

Reference: CNN Brasil

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