Researchers Discover a Glowing Planet in Perpetual State of Explosion

A NASA artist's depiction of an exoplanet filled with volcanic activity.

A NASA artist’s depiction of an exoplanet filled with volcanic activity.Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / Chris Smith (KRBwyle)

Astronomers stumbled upon a truly tormented planet. It will certainly make you appreciate Earth.

In a faraway solar system located approximately 66 light-years away, scientists utilized NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to identify a volcano-covered world previously unknown to science. The presence of an abundance of volcanoes on this planet is a result of being influenced by the orbits of the other two planets in its system, causing it to follow an irregular elliptical path that exerts varying forces on the planet, causing internal upheavals.

The unusual celestial scenario is reminiscent of the conditions on Jupiter’s moon Io, a moon constantly caught in a gravitational struggle with neighboring Jovian moons. This ongoing push and pull on Io leads to the eruption of lava from its volcanoes due to the constant stretching and squeezing.

“This is a terrestrial planet that could be likened to Io on an amplified scale,” stated Stephen Kane, a planetary astrophysicist at UC Riverside. “It finds itself in a continuous state of volcanic activity. Visual observations would reveal a radiant, fiery planet with a surface of molten lava.”

Despite our advanced telescopes not being able to provide a detailed view of such a distant world (a light-year being nearly 6 trillion miles), NASA’s TESS instrument is specifically designed to detect subtle fluctuations in light, enabling it to identify a planet passing in front of its host star, resulting in a temporary dimming. This groundbreaking method has led to the discovery of exoplanets, planets located outside our solar system.

“It finds itself in a continuous state of volcanic activity.”

In a recent study published in The Astronomical Journal focusing on this new volcanic world, Kane and his team elaborated on how the gravitational pull of the two larger outer planets in this solar system (referred to as “HD 104067”) significantly impacts the inner planet, subjecting it to an eccentric orbit, ultimately leading to the compression of this distressed world, producing immense heat and geological activities.

The planet’s surface temperature reaches a staggering 2,600 degrees Kelvin, equivalent to around 4,220 degrees Fahrenheit, significantly hotter than a typical pizza oven. (For comparison, the sun’s surface temperature exceeds 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.)

An artist's representation of a rocky planet engulfed in molten lava, orbiting closely around its star.

As of now, astronomers have confirmed the existence of over 5,600 exoplanets, with the majority being harsh and unsuitable for life. Some of these planets even experience metal rain. Among them, around 200 are rocky planets akin to Earth or Mars. Planetary scientists are particularly interested in discovering rocky planets situated within the “habitable zone” of their respective solar systems, a region where conditions could potentially support liquid water.

Despite the absence of concrete proof of extraterrestrial life, planets similar to Earth remain a promising focus of exploration.

Robert White

Robert is a dedicated tech journalist who thrives on uncovering the human stories behind technological advancements.

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