Scientists discover Mercury-like exoplanet

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Scientists discover Mercury-like exoplanet

  • In a bid to find exoplanets, scientists recently came across one of the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system.
  • The exoplanet discovered on 3rd December, is located 31 light years away from earth and perceives some of its important traits, illustrating the improvements in recent years in the ability to characterize smaller-sized planets that are hanging in mystic beyond our solar system.

The discovery

  • Named GJ367b, an international team of scientists spotted the newly discovered exoplanet using NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) spacecraft.
  • The tiny planet hugging a red star possessing ferocious surface temperatures and perhaps a molten lava surface on the side facing its star.

About the new planet:

  • The smallest planet of the variety, GJ367b has a diameter of about 9,000 km – compared to Earth’s 12,700 km and the 6,800 km of Mars.
  • Its mass is 55% that of Earth and it is more dense – could be called a tiny rich iron world!
  • The researchers calculated that 86% of the exoplanet is composed of iron, with an interior structure resembling Mercury, the closest planet to our sun.
  • Scientists are wondering whether the exoplanet lost an outer mantle that once encased its core.
  • GJ 367b is orbiting very close to a red dwarf star that is smaller, cooler and less luminous than our sun – more than 99% closer than Earth’s distance to the sun and the exoplanet orbits its star once every 7.7 hours, placing it in a category of “ultra-short period” exoplanets that travel around their home stars in less than 24 hours.
  • One side of GJ 367b probably faces its star at all times, with surface temperatures up to about 1,500 degrees Celsius.
  • This temperature is high enough to evaporate any atmosphere that GJ 367b might have had in the past, as well as melting any silicate rocks and metallic iron on the planet.

About Exoplanets

  • Exoplanets are planets that orbit a different star than our Sun - in a different solar system to the one we are in.
  • Even though scientists thought for a long time that they must exist, it was only in 1992 that the first exoplanet was discovered.
  • In 2015, scientists discovered the exoplanet Kepler-452b, which was described as 'Earth's cousin' because of its close similarities to our planet.
  • Space experts say exoplanets are really important because they raise the possibility that life could exist in other solar systems.