Astronomers Discover a Bizarre, Blazing Hot Planet That Glows

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.05 - 2024 5:15 PM CET

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Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
Scientists have identified a unique exoplanet with extreme conditions, including volcanic activity and a surface temperature of 2300°C, challenging our understanding of planetary science.

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In the vast expanse of the cosmos, about 66 light-years from Earth, lies a planet so extreme in its conditions that it seems more like a scene from a science fiction novel than reality.

Discovered by a team from the University of California, Riverside, this celestial body challenges the limits of our imagination with its glowing molten surface and temperatures reaching a blistering 2300°C.

The temperature of 2300°C (4172°F) is comparable to the melting point of some metals and exceeds that of lava ejected from a volcano. For example, iron melts at about 1538°C, meaning this planet's surface temperature is hot enough to melt iron and even approach the melting point of tungsten, one of the highest melting point metals at 3422°C.

This makes the surface of this newly discovered planet not only uninhabitable but also so extreme that it resembles the conditions found in industrial furnaces used for metal smelting, rather than any natural environment on Earth.

Innovative Discovery Methods

Orbiting the star HD 104067, this newly discovered planet resides in a system that was already on astronomers' radar due to its large gas giant, which completes an orbit every 55 days, as reported by New Scientist.

This recent study has unveiled two additional planets previously hidden from view, one the size of Uranus with a 14-day orbit and another, named TOI-6713.01, that is about 30% larger than Earth but zips around its star in just 2.2 days.

The discovery of these planets was made possible through two distinct astronomical techniques. The first relies on observing the gravitational pull a planet exerts on its star, causing a detectable wobble in the star's light. The second method observes dips in the star's brightness, indicating a planet passing in front of it and momentarily blocking its light. These techniques, combined with powerful telescopes, allow astronomers to uncover hidden worlds beyond our solar system.

A Planet Under Pressure

What sets TOI-6713.01 apart is not just its rapid orbit but the extreme conditions resulting from its interaction with the system's other planets and star. The gravitational forces exerted by the star and the two larger planets subject TOI-6713.01 to intense pressures, distorting its orbit into an elongated oval shape.

This constant gravitational "boxing" with its neighbors warps the planet's shape and heats its interior, leading to volcanic activity and a surface that glows from the extreme temperatures.

This discovery provides valuable insights into the dynamics of exoplanet systems and the forces at play that shape their worlds. The extreme conditions on TOI-6713.01 offer a unique laboratory for understanding how planets respond to intense gravitational forces and the potential for volcanic activity on rocky planets.

While the study has yet to undergo peer review, its findings have been made available on the preprint server Arxiv, inviting further examination and discussion within the scientific community.

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