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A new scientific research reveals the temperature of ‘Super Earth’

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Image source: www.businessinsider.my

London: Using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, an international team of astronomers that also includes an Indian-origin scientist has for the first time obtained the most detailed “fingerprint” of a super-Earth planet — a rocky planet nearly two times as big as ours.

The efforts led to the first temperature map that reveals extreme temperature swings from one side of the “55 Cancri e” planet to the other and hints that a possible reason for this is the presence of lava flows.

“We have entered a new era of atmospheric remote sensing of rocky exoplanets,” said study co-author Nikku Madhusudhan from the institute of astronomy at the University of Cambridge.

“It is incredible that we are now able to measure the large scale temperature distribution on the surface of a rocky exoplanet,” he added.

According to the team led by Cambridge, conditions on the hot side of the planet are so extreme that it may have caused the atmosphere to evaporate, with the result that conditions on the two sides of the planet vary widely.

Temperatures on the hot side can reach 2500 degrees Celsius while temperatures on the cool side are around 1100 degree Celsius.

“55 Cancri e” orbits a sun-like star located 40 light years away in the Cancer constellation.

It is a ‘super Earth’ – a rocky exoplanet about twice the size and eight times the mass of Earth and orbits its parent star so closely that a year lasts just 18 hours.

The planet is also tidally locked, meaning that it always shows the same face to its parent star, similar to the Moon, so there is a permanent “day” side and a “night” side.

Since it is among the nearest super Earths whose composition can be studied, 55 Cancri e is among the best candidates for detailed observations of surface and atmospheric conditions on rocky exoplanets.

“We haven’t yet found any other planet that is this small and orbits so close to its parent star, and is relatively close to us, so 55 Cancri e offers lots of possibilities,” added Dr Brice-Olivier Demory from Cambridge and the paper’s lead author.

“We still don’t know exactly what this planet is made of – it’s still a riddle. These results are like adding another brick to the wall, but the exact nature of this planet is still not completely understood,” he added in the paper appeared in the journal Nature.

According to Demory, one possibility for this variation could be either a complete lack of atmosphere, or one which has been partially destroyed due to the strong irradiation from the nearby host star.

Another possibility for the huge discrepancy between the day side and the night side may be that the molten lava on the day side moves heat along the surface, but since lava is mostly solid on the night side, heat is not moved around as efficiently.

What is unclear however, is where exactly the ‘extra’ heat on 55 Cancri e comes from in the first place.

The researchers may have to wait until the next generation of space telescopes are launched to find out.

In 2018, the successor to Hubble and Spitzer – the James Webb Space Telescope – will launch, allowing astronomers to look at planets outside our solar system with entirely new levels of precision.

Credits: Agencies

  • Akanksha Sharma

    These planets are termed as Super planets because their mass is twice as large as earth’s mass but the term does not imply that the temperature or any other living condition is similar to that of earths’.

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Parker Solar Probe of NASA Sends Back its First Images

The Parker Solar Probe's first close approach to the Sun will be in November

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NASA
NASA's Parker Solar Probe sends back first images. Flickr

Just over a month into its seven-year mission to touch the Sun, NASA Parker Solar Probe has beamed back the first-light data from each of its four instrument suites, the US space agency said.

On September 9, Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe’s (WISPR) — the only imager on the probe — door was opened, allowing the instrument to take the first images during its journey to the Sun.

WISPR with both its inner and outer telescope snapped a blue-toned, two-panel image of space with stars visible throughout.

While the Sun is not visible in the image, it showed Jupiter.

Launched on August 12, Parker Solar Probe, NASA historic small car-sized probe will journey steadily closer to the Sun, until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles.

“All instruments returned data that not only serves for calibration, but also captures glimpses of what we expect them to measure near the Sun to solve the mysteries of the solar atmosphere, the corona,” said Nour Raouafi, the probe’s project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland.

NASA
This is NASA’s Latest achievement. Pixabay

While these early data are not yet examples of the key science observations that the probe is expected to transmit in December, it shows that each of its four instrument suites are working well.

The probe also sent data back from its three other instruments on board: ISoIS, FIELDS and SWEAP which are all dedicated to unravelling the mysteries of the Sun.

ISoIS’s (pronounced “ee-sis” and includes the symbol for the Sun in its acronym) two Energetic Particle Instruments — EPI-Lo and EPI-Hi — cover a range of energies for these activity-driven particles.

EPI-Lo’s initial data shows background cosmic rays, particles that were energised and came rocketing into our solar system from elsewhere in the galaxy.

Data from EPI-Hi shows detections of both hydrogen and helium particles from its lower-energy telescopes.

The FIELDS’ four electric field antennas on the front of the probe observed the signatures of a solar flare, while the SWEAP’s (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons), three instruments caught glimpses of the solar wind.

NASA
Launched on August 12, Parker Solar Probe, NASA’s historic small car-sized probe will journey steadily closer to the Sun, until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. Pixabay

The Parker Solar Probe’s first close approach to the Sun will be in November.

Over the next two months, it will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October.

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Throughout its mission, the probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun.

The probe is named after Eugene Parker, a solar physicist, who in 1958 first predicted the existence of the solar wind, a stream of charged particles and magnetic fields that flow continuously from the Sun. (IANS)