Planet Inferno

Science with The VALiens: Planet Inferno

What do you think, how the hell looks like? You might be surprised but astronomers know the answer. 40 light years from our Earth astronomers have discovered a unique exoplanet – awarded the epithet “infernal.” This planet belongs to Sun-like system in the constellation of Cancri.

Rocky planets that exceed the size of the Earth, usually referred to as “super-Earths.” Not that many of them are known that is why  new space object in this category attracts attention of scientists. It partly explains by the hope of finding an analogue of our planet, in part because of the desire to understand the secrets of the origin of Earth-worlds. The planet called as Cancri 55e is described by researchers from Austria, Canada and the United States in an article in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. For the scientists the most important are general characteristics of the planet rather that the potential habitability. From the point of habitability Cancri 55e is such unpleasant world which is hard to find.

Planet Cancri 55e is definitely a non-trivial object. This is of an impressive size (about 60% the size of Earth), the body with a density of about 11 ± 3 grams per cubic centimeter! If the dry numbers are not impressive enough, remember: lead has a density of 11.34 grams per cubic centimeter! The average density of Earth at all is about 5.5 gm / cc. However, scientists believe it is not only about lead or the more depleted uranium are responsible for such a high density. Almost pure iron and nickel, compressed by gravity, can give the required numbers, as we don’t know for sure how these metals behave in the core of the planet.

How would this super dense world look like? Gray lands stretching to the unusually distant horizon, or brownish-red mountains because of iron oxides? However the work of an international team of astronomers can give an image of something quite different. Something, which is rather belongs to the pages of science fiction. For even a serious paper in a serious magazine mentions the epithet “Inferno” right after describing the climate of Cancri 55e. Unless it still can be called “climate”. For the climate we need at least some atmosphere which is absolutely not expected of Cancri 55e. Whatever could compose the atmosphere of this planet is not able to withstand the temperature up to 2000 degrees Celsius.

This is not a typo. Because of the proximity of the planet to the star the temperature of the surface is really two thousand degrees Celsius. The distance to the star is much smaller than that of Mercury and in the black sky of Cancri 55e hangs a huge glowing ball which is 3600 brighter that the Sun. The power of the star light is able to burn all combustible materials and just a casual reflection can easily destroy the retina light. This enormous energy of the light created the oceans of liquid metal, for that completely fulfilling the epithet given to this planet. If you do not agree, here we point out one more fact – a star of spectral type G, as the Sun, creates a powerful stream of ionizing radiation. In our case the cool atmosphere of Earth together with magnetic field give us a powerful protection. Therefore this cosmic radiation is not interesting to anyone on Earth except physicists. But Cancri 55e is way more powerful that any existent nuclear reactor.

The picture of Hell is supplemented by three times stronger gravity compared to Earth. However, taking in account all mentioned factors of Cancri 55e, the extra weight of 150 kg per person is not a big deal. As you can see, the question of habitability of this planet is pretty straight forward. We only can assume that if afterlife exists, all The VALiens haters end up there.

                                      -   pic from sciencefeature.com -
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