Rocky Exoplanet Twice Earth's Size Found With Dense Atmosphere

Rocky Exoplanet Twice Earth's Size Found With Dense Atmosphere

Astronomers utilizing the James Webb Space Telescope have discovered a thick atmosphere on 55 Cancri e, a super-Earth exoplanet located 41 light-years away in a nearby solar system. Despite being twice the size of Earth, the planet has a significant atmosphere composed primarily of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. This exoplanet, also known as Janssen, orbits very close to its host star, named Copernicus, resulting in extreme temperatures estimated at 3,140 degrees Fahrenheit and a surface likely covered in molten lava.

The proximity to its star means that 55 Cancri e has permanent day and night sides, with one side always facing the star and the other in perpetual darkness. The conditions on this planet, which is 8.8 times as massive as Earth, make it inhospitable to life as we know it. Nevertheless, the presence of an atmosphere is a notable discovery and provides valuable data on the diversity of planetary systems. Researchers suggest that the study of this exoplanet may also provide insights into the evolution of rocky planets with magma oceans, potentially informing our understanding of the early stages of Earth and Mars.

The research on 55 Cancri e's atmosphere, published in the journal Nature, underscores the capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope in characterizing exoplanets. While the findings on this super-Earth suggest it is not a candidate for life, they open the door for further exploration of other rocky exoplanets that may possess more temperate conditions and, potentially, atmospheres conducive to supporting life.


Other news in science