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Exoplanet 55 Cancri e
55 Cancri e is a rocky exoplanet located around 41 lightyears away from earth. It’s also known as the “hell planet”, as well as many other names, due to the build of the planet.
Discovered in 2004, it’s twice as wide and eight times more immense than Earth which is also why it’s known as super-earth. It’s also a possibility that the interior is made of diamonds.
The binary star system 55 Cancri is located around 41 light-years in distance. One star, 55 Cancri A, is a red dwarf, and the other, 55 Cancri B, is a K-type main sequence star. 55 Cancri e is a part of this system.
The planet is formally known as Janssen. It orbits a G-type star similar to our sun, called Copernicus. It orbits so tightly around this star which is why the planet is so scorching hot. So closely that it completes one orbit around in less than one Earth day, 17.5 hours. It’s 1/25th of the distance between our Sun and Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun. This classifies 55 Cancri e as an ultra-short period planet. Also known as USPs, they are planets that orbit in under 24 hours.
Orbit Around Copernicus
Astronomers previously doubted that a planet would be able to exist while being so close to the host star. Yet Janssen proved this doubt wrong. This made astronomers wonder if the planet was always orbiting so closely. Studying the spin-orbit of planets is extremely important in understanding the planets and how they were a part of the evolution of their solar system. This is key for exoplanets like 55 Cancri e, since they did not previously understand.
At Yale University, Debra Fischer led her team in developing a tool known as EXPRES — which stands for EXtreme PREcision Spectrometer. The device was installed on the Lowell Discovery Telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona. This device is extremely in astronomy for finding more information about different bodies at a far distance. 41 light-years is a great distance so even though 55 Cancri e is extremely large, at that distance it’s exceptionally tiny.
Researchers used this machine to measure tiny shifts in the starlight from Copernicus as Janssen moved from closer to the star and closer to Earth. This helped scientists determine that the exoplanet is orbiting around the equator of Copernicus. Also that there are four other planets, on different orbital paths, also orbiting around the star.
Astronomers believe that due to the evidence found about Janssens unusual orbit, the exoplanet was originally not so close. They believe the planet originally had a more distant orbit. Then it began drifting closer to Copernicus. Then due to the intense gravitational pull of Copernicus’s equator, it changed Janssen’s orbit.
Scorching Hot Surface
This planet’s surface is molten lava, reaching 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1982 degrees Celsius. The exoplanet wasn’t always blistering hot due to it not always being the same distance from the star. And although the orbit distance had gradually gotten closer, it was determined that it was always extremely hot. But the exoplanet has never been close to being habitable and researchers say that nothing they are aware of would be able to live on the surface. And since it’s gotten closer it has become even more scorching hot.
Written by Alyssa Calderon
CNN: A year only lasts 17.5 hours on the ‘hell planet’
ABC7: Scientists learning more about extremely-hot exoplanet ’55 Cancri e’ with help of new NASA telescope
CNN: ‘Super-Earth’ is super hot, NASA telescope discovers
NASA: 55 Cancri e
Universe Today: This Hellish Planet Orbits its Star Every 18 Hours. How Did it Get There?
Featured Image Courtesy of Kevin Gill Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Kevin Gill Flickr Page – Creative Commons License