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NASA takes a Super-Earth's temperature

Engadget Engadget 31/03/2016 Andrew Tarantola
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NASA researchers recently trained the Spitzer Space Telescope at a nearby Super-Earth, 55 Cancri e, and, for the first time, have managed to map its temperature as the exoplanet orbits its host star. The map reveals that the planet suffers from extreme temperature swings, depending on its orbit. Since 55 Cancri e circles so closely to its star (completing orbits in just 18 hours), it behaves much like the Earth's moon. That is, one side of the planet continually faces the star and is therefore far hotter than the opposite side -- 4400 degrees F and 2060 degrees F, respectively.

"The latest findings tell us the planet has hot nights and significantly hotter days," lead author of the study, Cambridge University's Brice Olivier Demory, said in a statement. "This indicates the planet inefficiently transports heat around the planet. We propose this could be explained by an atmosphere that would exist only on the day side of the planet, or by lava flows at the planet surface." Researchers had initially discovered that 55 Cancri e does possess an atmosphere, however this data would suggest that the planet's atmosphere is thin at best. NASA plans to follow up this study with additional observations using the James Webb telescope.

NASA

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