This is one of the most exotic alien planets, which fascinated astronomers more than a decade ago.
Twice the size of Earth – and named “55 Cancri e” – is 26 times closer to its parent star than Mercury is to the Sun.
55 Cancri e – Most alien world we can only imagine
This alien, carbon-rich world, visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Cancer, is composed of carbon, iron, silicon and carbide.
Most probably, the planet’s surface is covered in graphite and diamond rather than water and granite.
Now, a deeper analysis of the same Spitzer data finds this planet likely has an atmosphere whose ingredients could be similar to those of Earth’s atmosphere, but thicker. Lava lakes directly exposed to space without an atmosphere would create local hot spots of high temperatures, so they are not the best explanation for the Spitzer observations, scientists said.
“If there is lava on this planet, it would need to cover the entire surface,” said Renyu Hu, astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and co-author of a study published in The Astronomical Journal.
“But the lava would be hidden from our view by the thick atmosphere.”
The temperature on the surface of 55 Cancri e is estimated to be as high as 2,400 to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit (1,300 to 1,400 Celsius), and the hot side averages 4,200 degrees Fahrenheit (2,300 Celsius).
10 Most Bizarre And Record Breaking Alien Worlds
Detailed Map Of Rocky Planet 55 Cancri e Created By Astronomers
55 Cancri e – Most Exotic World We Can Only Imagine
55 Cancri e – First Detection Of Gases In Atmosphere Of Exotic Super-Earth
More About Astronomy
This temperature difference allowed the scientists to draw conclusions about the planet’s atmosphere as the difference would be greater if there were no atmosphere on 55 Cancri e.
Scientists have long debated whether Cancri e has an atmosphere like Earth and Venus, or just a rocky core and no atmosphere, like Mercury.
The case for an atmosphere is now stronger than ever, according to Hu.
Despite its atmosphere the intense heat from the planet’s star is far too great to allow it to support life and it could not maintain liquid water. Researchers are still left with many lingering questions about the mysterious planet, particularly why the atmosphere not been stripped away by the radiation coming from its star.
Hu said that unraveling these questions will help us address larger questions about the evolution of rocky planets.