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May 19, 2024

Astronomers Discover Nearby Earth-Sized Lava World and Other Bizarre Exoplanets

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Jan 21, 2024

Astronomers have recently discovered several fascinating new exoplanets, including an Earth-sized world that is half covered in molten lava. These new finds provide intriguing clues into the diversity of planets beyond our solar system.

Earth-Sized Lava Planet Discovered Shockingly Close to Our Solar System

Using data from NASA’s planet-hunting TESS spacecraft, astronomers have identified an Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star just 70 light years away. Dubbed HD 63433 d, this bizarre world is tidally locked, meaning one side perpetually faces its host star while the other side faces away.

As a result, simulations indicate that most of the star-facing hemisphere is covered in a vast magma ocean hundreds of miles deep. Meanwhile, the atmosphere on the dark side has collapsed and frozen out on the surface.

“It’s amazing to think that this planet that would be so hostile to life is so similar in size, mass and temperature to Earth,” said lead researcher Dr. Iska Huckvale of the University of Bern. “It shows us these lava worlds could be much more common than we realized.”

The discovery of HD 63433 d suggests that many more Earth-sized lava planets likely lurk undetected in our stellar neighborhood. Astronomers plan to conduct follow-up studies to see if an atmosphere persists amidst the global lava ocean.

Table 1: Key Parameters of HD 63433 d Compared to Earth

Parameter HD 63433 d Earth
Radius 0.93 x Earth 1 x Earth
Mass 1.7 x Earth 1 x Earth
Equilibrium Temp 738°C 15°C
Location 70 ly away N/A

Glimpses of Ancient Earth? Young Lava World Spotted by TESS

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered another bizarre lava-covered world slightly larger than Earth orbiting a youthful 600 million-year-old star.

Dubbed TOI-1452 b, this exoplanet resides in a system filled with debris from its formation, hinting at what early Earth and the solar system might have resembled billions of years ago.

Because TOI-1452 b orbits so close to its star, temperatures exceed 1,500°F on the dayside. At these extreme temperatures, rocks melt into lava oceans rather than water oceans.

“We expect lava worlds to be common in the early universe, when their stars are very active,” said lead researcher Apurva Oza of MIT. “Discovering one so nearby provides an exciting opportunity to study an exoplanet environment that likely resembles ancient Earth or Venus.”

Additional observations of TOI-1452 b and similar lava worlds could reveal insights into the geologic activity and evolution of early Earth-like planets.

Blistering Hot Super-Earth Spotted Orbiting Nearby Red Dwarf

Astronomers using data from the Carmenes instrument at Calar Alto Observatory in Spain have detected a severely irradiated, 4.7-Earth-mass exoplanet orbiting the nearby red dwarf star HD 238090.

The newfound world, dubbed HD 238090 b, is just 35 light years from Earth and experiences average temperatures around 1,832°F. However, since it orbits a red dwarf star, conditions could allow for pockets of liquid water beneath the scorched airless surface.

“Planets around red dwarfs are important candidates in the search for life elsewhere in the Universe,” said lead researcher Teruyuki Hirano of Tokyo Tech. “Although this exoplanet is unlikely to harbor life, our findings demonstrate that the next generation of space-based telescopes will be able to discover potentially habitable planets around nearby stars.”

By studying worlds like HD 238090 b, astronomers can better model the range of conditions and environments on planets around red dwarfs, the most common type of star. Over 70% of the Milky Way’s hundreds of billions of stars are red dwarfs.

Outlook: What’s Next for Exoplanet Discoveries?

The discoveries of HD 63433 d, TOI-1452 b, and HD 238090 b add to the enigma of exoplanets, showing worlds vastly different than any in our solar system. As instrumentation and techniques improve, astronomers plan to conduct additional observations to peer into the environments of these unusual planets.

Looking ahead, powerful next-generation telescopes like NASA’s highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope and ESA’s ARIEL mission will soon commence operations and are expected to greatly accelerate the rate of exoplanet discoveries. Their advanced infrared optics will allow detailed atmospheric analysis of exoplanets.

“JWST and ARIEL will unveil exoplanetary atmospheres in unprecedented clarity,” said Dr. Nikku Madhusudhan of Cambridge University. “We could detect signatures of habitability and even biosignatures. We might finally find evidence of extraterrestrial life.”

For now, astronomers will continue relying on TESS and other astronomers to advance the census of worlds beyond our solar system. Identifying more nearby exoplanets, like the newfound lava Earth HD 63433 d, improves chances of pinpointing habitable abodes elsewhere in the galaxy.

Conclusion

The bizarre exoplanets discovered in recent weeks showcase the splendid diversity of worlds in the galaxy. From young molten Earths to blistering hot super-Earths, these finds provide windows into alien planetary environments impossible to recreate on Earth.

As technology progresses, astronomers edge closer toward identifying truly habitable abodes, perhaps even an exo-Earth hosting signatures of life beyond our lonely planet. For a cosmos containing hundreds of billions of stars, the odds seem good that Earthlings are not alone.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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