Light from ‘Super Earth’ planet detected for the first time by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope

By on May 9, 2012 in Astronomy, Science Comments

NASA announced on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 that Spitzer Space Telescope has detected light from the so-called “super-Earth” for the first time, with the planet named 55 Cancri e notably not suitable for humans.

Super Earth planet 55 Cancri e (Artist’s concept)
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to a post on NASA‘s official website that day, a new study of 55 Cancri e revealed that the planet is somehow dark, and its sun-facing side is over 2,000 Kelvin (3,140 degrees Fahrenheit), which is hot enough to melt metal.

As noted in the report, 55 Cancri e, which is beyond our solar system, falls into a category of planets dubbed as super Earths, which are much heavier than Earth but are lighter than big planets such as Neptune.

In addition, the said planet, which orbits a bright star called 55 Cancri within 18 hours, was said to almost twice as big and eight times as massive as Earth, with the ‘alien planet’ system around 41 light-years away from our planet.

The study, with Brice-Olivier Demory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge as the lead author and is featured at Astrophysical Journal, is reportedly consistent with the earlier theory that 55 Cancri e is a water world.

“It could be very similar to Neptune, if you pulled Neptune in toward our sun and watched its atmosphere boil away,” Michaël Gillon of Université de Liège in Belgium, who is also principal investigator of the research, was quoted on the report.

Nevertheless, scientists noted 55 Cancri e, which is the closest to the star among the five planets in the 55 Cancri system, has only one side facing is star and likely not to have sufficient atmosphere to carry the heat of the sun to its other side.

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