July 21, 2024

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Astronomers identify a planet that is covered in volcanoes and whose surface could contain water

Astronomers identify a planet that is covered in volcanoes and whose surface could contain water

Astronomers have discovered a planet they believe is full of active volcanoes. In a study published Tuesday in A multinational team of scientists said they have discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet that they believe may have water on part of its surface. The boring one named LP 791-18 d (unfortunately, no one thought to call it that ) about 90 light-years from Earth constellation crater. LP 791-18 d orbits a red dwarf that is phase-locked, meaning the planet does not have a day-night cycle like Earth. Instead, one part of LP 791-18 d is constantly burned by sunlight, while the other part is always in darkness.

“The day side is probably too hot to have liquid water on the surface. But the amount of volcanic activity that we suspect is happening all over the planet could preserve the atmosphere, which could allow water to condense on the night side,” said Bjorn Bencke, An astronomer who has studied the planet, according to NASA .

The LP 791-18 system contains at least two other planets, called LP 791-18 b and c. The latter is two and a half times larger than Earth and more than seven times its mass. It also affects LP 791-18 d’s orbit, causing it to travel along an elliptical path around the system’s sun. This trajectory means that LP 791-18 d deforms each time it completes an orbit. According to NASA: “These deformations can create enough internal friction to greatly heat the planet’s interior and produce volcanic activity on its surface.”

“The big question in astrobiology, the field that extensively studies the origins of life on Earth and beyond, is whether tectonic or volcanic activity is necessary for life,” said study co-author Jessie Christiansen. “In addition to potentially providing the atmosphere, these processes could yield materials that would otherwise sink and get stuck in the crust, including those we think are important to life, such as carbon.”

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NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency are already planning to convert the James Webb Space Telescope’s infrared imaging instruments to LP 791-18c. The team that discovered LP 791-18 d believes the exoplanet would be “an exceptional candidate for atmospheric studies by the mission.” Notably, the retiree helped discover LP 791-18 d before NASA decommissioned it in 2020. This week, the US Space Force to explore the feasibility of bringing the telescope out of retirement.

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