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Exoplanet that celebrates New Year every 8.5 hours discovered

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 22:31

Washington: Researchers at MIT have discovered an exoplanet that is 700 light-years away and completes an entire rotation around its star in just 8.5 hours.

The exoplanet has one of the shortest orbital periods ever detected.

The planet is extremely close to its star-its orbital radius is only about three times the radius of the star-and the scientists have estimated that its surface temperatures may be as high as 3,000 degrees Kelvin, or more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

In such a scorching environment, the top layer of the planet is likely completely melted, creating a massive, rolling ocean of lava.

What`s most exciting to scientists is that they were able to detect light emitted by the planet-the first time that researchers have been able to do so for an exoplanet as small as Kepler 78b.

This light, once analyzed with larger telescopes, may give scientists detailed information about the planet`s surface composition and reflective properties.

Kepler 78b is so close to its star that scientists hope to measure its gravitational influence on the star.

Such information may be used to measure the planet`s mass, which could make Kepler 78b the first Earth-sized planet outside our own solar system whose mass is known.

Co-author Josh Winn, an associate professor of physics at MIT, said that just the fact that it`s able to survive there implies that it`s very dense.

In their discovery of Kepler 78b, the team looked through more than 150,000 stars that were monitored by the Kepler Telescope, a NASA space observatory that surveys a slice of the galaxy. Scientists are analyzing data from Kepler in hopes of identifying habitable, Earth-sized planets.

The researchers will report their discovery in The Astrophysical Journal.


First Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 22:31

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