Super-Earth First Heat Map Shows Lava Flows

Posted: Mar 31 2016, 6:53am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 31 2016, 7:13am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Super-Earth First Heat Map Shows Lava Flows at the Planet Surface
This artist’s rendering shows the super-Earth 55 Cancri e in front of its parent star. The planet is essentially a heat-seeking fireball, orbiting extremely close to its star. It circles in just 18 hours, compared to Earth’s leisurely 365-day journey around the sun. Image: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser
  • Super-Earth Heat Map Shows Extreme Temperature Swings are due to presence of lava flows

NASA’s Spitzer telescope has mapped the heat patterns of a far-off planet similar to our earth that is termed super earth. It is very hot indeed.

NASA’s Spitzer telescope has made several observations and these have led to a heat map of what can only be called super earth. This is a craggy planet that is twice the size of our own earth and it lies 40 light years away.

The map shows extreme temperature swings from one hemisphere of the planet to the other. This may be so because of lava flowing from volcanoes on the strange planet.

The general scenario this planet presents to us earthlings is subject to change. Evidence points to the sweltering planet having very hot nights and even hotter days.

Thus the transference of heat all over the planet is very inefficient. This might be due to an atmosphere that remains extant on the day side of the planet or it could be due to the lava flow.

Termed super earth, this 55 Cancri e goes around its star at an 18 hour ellipsis. Due to its propinquity to its star, it is in the clutches of its gravitational force. This is in a similar manner as our moon is tightly held in place by our planet.

The varying brightness of an exoplanet called 55 Cancri e is shown in this plot of infrared data captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Cambridge

The day side of super earth is all the time being baked by the hot star it circles. Meanwhile, the night side is relatively cooler due to the fact that it lies in the darker half.

The phases of 55 Cancri e were like the various stages of the moon. Such observations helped in the map-making process. The map allows us to see the hot spots on the planet. The Spitzer telescope observed super earth for a time span of 80 hours as it went around its star.

Temperature variations across the surface of super earth were recorded. The scientists found a temperature difference of 2340 degrees Fahrenheit between the two sides of the planet.

The hot side is 4400 degrees Fahrenheit while the cooler side is 2060 degrees Fahrenheit. Finding the night side cooler than the day side by a significant degree meant that the distribution of heat is not very efficient across the surface of the planet.

This planet does not have an atmosphere. Heat must be recirculated around the day side for it to get so hot at that particular time. More observations will be made in the future from the James Webb Space Telescope.

This study has been published in the journal Nature.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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