New planet discovered with a lava ocean and an 8-hour year
Researchers have discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet that's even closer to its sun than Mercury is to ours.
Illustration of an exoplanet. (©Stocktrek Images/Getty Images)
There is a place where the surface is lava and a year is only 8 ½ hours long. It sounds like fiction, but it's actually a planet 700 light-years away from Earth, Slate magazine reports. It's the latest exoplanet that astronomers have discovered using the now-defunct Kepler space telescope, and NASA researchers are calling it "amazing."
Trending topic: exoplanet discovered
The newfound exoplanet is called Kepler-78b. It's about the same size as Earth, and is so close to its star that it takes only 8 ½ hours to make a complete orbit. Researchers say it's about 40 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun. With a temperature exceeding 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, its surface is likely a giant ocean of lava. Josh Winn, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that the fact Kepler-78b is even able to survive means it must be very dense.
"Whether nature actually makes planets that are dense enough to survive even closer in -- that's an open question and would be even more amazing," he said.
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According to Space.com, the exoplanet was found by tracking tiny dips in the brightness of its star. As the planet passed between the star and Earth, a small shadow moved across the surface. The research team also noticed light coming from the planet itself, which is a first for a planet this small. They say it's probably a combination of starlight reflecting off lava and atmospheric gases, and radiation from its hot surface.
Bing: Learn more about exoplanets
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