Humanity’s first look at conditions on a “super-Earth” 50 light years away is expected in the coming weeks via the James Webb Space Telescope, and NASA is preparing to see nightmares.
The planet, called 55 Cancri e, orbits so close to “its Sun-like star” that surface conditions could literally resemble the Hell of the biblical description: one dimension in a constant state of combustion.
The data shows that 55 Cancri e is less than 1.5 million miles from its star, or 1/25 the distance between superhot Mercury and our sun, according to NASA.
“With surface temperatures well above the melting point of typical rock-forming minerals, the dayside of the planet is thought to be covered in oceans of lava,” NASA reported last week.
“Imagine if the Earth was much, much closer to the Sun. So close that an entire year lasts only a few hours. So close that gravity has locked one hemisphere in permanent scorching daylight and the other in darkness. endless. So close that the oceans bubble away, the rocks begin to melt and the clouds rain down lava.”
Nothing like this exists in our solar system, says NASA.
Among the things scientists hope to find out is whether the planet is “tide-locked, with one side facing the star at all times” or whether it rotates in a way that would create day and night. .
Early views from NASA’s less powerful Spitzer Space Telescope show that something mysterious is happening on 55 Cancri e, because the hottest spot isn’t the part directly facing its star.
One theory is that the planet has “a dynamic atmosphere that moves heat,” NASA says.
Another idea is that 55 Cancri e turns to create day and night, but with nightmarish results.
“In this scenario, the surface would heat up, melt, and even vaporize during the day, forming a very thin atmosphere that Webb could detect,” NASA explains.
“In the evening, the vapor cooled and condensed to form droplets of lava which fell to the surface, becoming solid again by nightfall.”
The James Webb Space Telescope should be fully operational in “a few weeks” and its first observations are expected during the summer, according to NASA.
The telescope is able to detect the presence of an atmosphere, say the scientists.
Its first year will be devoted to the study of 55 Cancri e and the airless planet LHS 3844 b, to try to understand “the evolution of rocky planets like Earth”, specifies NASA.
Astronomers will train the James Webb Telescope’s high-precision spectrographs on two intriguing rocky exoplanets
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Quote: Has NASA Found Hell? Scientists prepare for first glimpse of the constantly burning world (June 1, 2022) Retrieved June 1, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-nasa-hell-scientists-brace-glimpse.html
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