четверг, 7 февраля 2019 г.

55 Cancri e: Where Skies Sparkle Above a Never-ending Ocean of Lava

We’ve discovered thousands of exoplanets – planets beyond our solar system – so far. These worlds are mysterious, but observations from telescopes on the ground and in space help us understand what they might look like.

Take the planet 55 Cancri e, for instance. It’s relatively close, galactically speaking, at 41 light-years away. It’s a rocky planet, nearly two times bigger than Earth, that whips around its star every 18 hours (as opposed to the 365 days it takes our planet to orbit the Sun. Slacker).


The planet’s star, 55 Cancri, is slightly smaller than our Sun, but it’s 65 times closer than the Sun is to Earth. Imagine a massive sun on the horizon! Because 55 Cancri e is so close to its star, it’s tidally locked just like our Moon is to the Earth. One side is always bathed in daylight, the other is in perpetual darkness. It’s also hot. Really hot. So hot that silicate rocks would melt into a molten ocean of melted rock. IT’S COVERED IN AN OCEAN OF LAVA. So, it’s that hot (between 3,140 degrees and 2,420 degrees F).


Scientists think 55 Cancri e also may harbor a thick atmosphere that circulates heat from the dayside to the nightside. Silicate vapor in the atmosphere could condense into sparkling clouds on the cooler, darker nightside that would reflect the lava below. It’s also possible that it would rain sand on the nightside, but … sparkling skies!


Check out our Exoplanet Travel Bureau’s latest 360-degree visualization of 55 Cancri e and download the travel poster at https://go.nasa.gov/2HOyfF3.


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