Newly Discovered Planet Completes Three Years in a Day

Newly Discovered Planet Completes Three Years in a Day

If it feels like it takes you half a year to fall asleep each night, here’s an interesting tidbit for you: If you lived on Kepler 78b, that could literally be true. Scientists at MIT have just announced their discovery of a previously-unknown planet the size of Earth that orbits its sun in just 8.5 hours.

The discovery of Kepler 78b was reported recently in The Astrophysical Journal. They say that the planet is able to complete its orbit in such a short time because of its incredible proximity to its star, about forty times closer than Mercury is to our sun. With extreme gravitational pressures and surface temperatures estimated at more than 5000 degrees Fahrenheit, the planet would have to be incredibly dense – made perhaps almost entirely of iron.

The MIT team was deliberately looking for a planet with such a brief orbit in order to discover if it was even possible. To find it, they analyzed light data from thousands of star systems. They developed an automated approach to search out the dips in the light data that indicate a planet passing in front of the star. From there, it was a relatively simple matter to whittle the field down to just those stars that showed this dip very frequently.

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Credits: kepler.nasa.gov

 

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