Scientists have discovered a mysterious exoplanet dubbed a ‘hot Neputne’ that’s so scorching its atmosphere ‘shouldn’t exist.’
Researchers from the University of Kansas have analysed the planet, dubbed LTT 9779b.
Ian Crossfield, who led the study, said: “This planet is so intensely irradiated by its star that its temperature is over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and its atmosphere could have evaporated entirely. Yet, our Spitzer observations show us its atmosphere via the infrared light the planet emits.”
“This planet doesn’t have a solid surface, and it’s much hotter even than Mercury in our solar system — not only would lead melt in the atmosphere of this planet, but so would platinum, chromium and stainless steel.
“A year on this planet is less than 24 hours — that’s how quickly it’s whipping around its star. It’s a pretty extreme system.”
The planet was discovered by NASA’s TESS satellite last year, and now researchers have used a technique called ‘phase curve’ to analyse the panel’s atmosphere.
Mr Crossfield said: “We measure how much infrared light was being emitted by the planet as it rotates 360 degrees on its axis. Infrared light tells you the temperature of something and where the hotter and cooler parts of this planet are — on Earth, it’s not hottest at noon; it’s hottest a couple of hours into the afternoon.
“But on this planet, it’s actually hottest just about at noon. We see most of the infrared light coming from the part of the planet when its star is straight overhead and a lot less from other parts of the planet.”
The researchers hope the findings will encourage further research into exoplanet atmospheres.
Mr Crossfield added: “I wouldn’t say we understand everything about this planet now, but we’ve measured enough to know this is going to be a really fruitful object for future study.
“It’s already being targeted for observations with the James Webb Space Telescope, which is NASA’s next big multibillion-dollar flagship space telescope that’s going up in a couple of years.
“What our measurements so far show us are what we call the spectral absorption features — and its spectrum indicates carbon monoxide and or carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We’re starting to get a handle on what molecules make up its atmosphere.
“Because we see this, and because of how this global temperature map looks, it also tells us something about how the winds are circulating energy and material around through the atmosphere of this mini gas planet.”