(ORDO NEWS) — The hot rocky “super-earth” orbiting one of the oldest stars in the galaxy has taken the planet-hunting team by surprise.
The planet is about 50% larger than Earth, but it takes less than half a day to orbit a star. The discovery of planet TOI-561b and additional observations made by the team on its composition were accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal and presented on January 11 at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in 2021.
Part of the reason for such a short orbit is the planet’s proximity to its star, which emits a tremendous amount of heat. According to preliminary estimates, the average temperature on the planet’s surface is more than 2,000 Kelvin – too hot to talk about life as we know it today. But once it might have been possible.
This planet has a mass about three times the mass of the Earth. At the same time, a team of scientists calculated that its density is the same as that of our planet. They noted that the older the planet, the less dense it can be, because there were not many heavy elements at its formation. Heavy elements are formed by fusion reactions in stars as they age. Eventually, the stars explode, scattering these elements from which new stars and planets are formed.
Named after NASA’s transit satellite for exoplanet exploration, TESS Object of Interest (TOI) 561 belongs to a rare population of stars called the thick disk of the galaxy. The stars in this area are chemically different from each other, with fewer heavy elements like iron or magnesium that are associated with the formation of planets.
Astronomers are constantly trying to understand the relationship between the mass and radius of the planets they have discovered. This information provides insight into the inner structure of the planets, which with today’s technology are too far away to be visited and tasted.
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