Welcome to Janssen, the “hellish planet” of lava and diamonds where a year lasts 18 hours

There is a planet in the night sky that orbits its star in 18 hours, has a huge ocean of lava and a core of diamonds.

Welcome to 55 Cancri e, better known as Planet Janssen, whose extreme orbit is revealed by new research published in natural astronomy.

An exoplanet (one that orbits a star other than our Sun) between the size of Earth and Neptune, Copernicus is 41 light-years away from us in the constellation of Cancer, “the Crab”. There are actually two stars in this system – something that sounds weird, but is actually very common. The main star is a bit cooler than the Sun while the minor star is a super cool red dwarf, the most common type of star.

Janssen’s proximity to his star is confusing to astronomers.

As far as they know, planets form far from their stars, so what caused them to migrate? The new research measured the planet’s wobble (officially its radial velocity) as it moved over its host star, called Copernicus (or 55 Cancri), causing a mild eclipse. They did this using an instrument called the EXtreme PREcision Spectrometer (EXPRES) at the Lowell Discovery Telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

What the researchers found is that Janssen orbits Copernicus along the star’s equator, unlike the four other planets known to also orbit the star. This suggests that the planet did indeed form farther away, and as it got closer, Copernicus’ stronger gravitational pull changed the planet’s orbit. It was previously thought that the close orbit of the red dwarf caused the planets to be misaligned with Copernicus.

“This result really gives us one of the first such constraints on how ultra-short-period planets evolve and how they end up so close to a star,” said Dr Vedad Kunovac from the Observatory. Lowell and member of the research team.

This is crucial because a better understanding of how planets form and move over time will help astronomers discover how common terrestrial environments are in the universe and how abundant extraterrestrial life could be. (or not).

Could there be an ET on Janssen? Certainly not! “It was probably so hot that nothing we know of could survive on the surface,” said the study’s lead author, Lily Zhao, a researcher at the Flatiron Instituteit is Computational Astrophysics Center (CCA) in New York, about where the planet originally formed far from its host star. “We hope to find planetary systems similar to ours and better understand the systems we know.”

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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