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  • Writer's picturePrabhjot Singh Maan

Scorching Super-Earth 'GJ 1252 b' hot enough to melt gold may have lost its atmosphere

The term "Super-Earth" refers to a rocky planet the size of Earth that is hot enough to melt gold and may not have an atmosphere.

Scientists can determine which of these terrestrial exoplanets might be capable of supporting life by comparing these Super-Earths to our world.

"We're just beginning to learn how often, and under what circumstances, rocky planets can keep their atmospheres," Laura Kreidberg, an exoplanet scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and co-author of a new paper describing the discovery, said in a statement. "This measurement is an indication that for the hottest planets, it's unlikely that thick atmospheres typically survive."

GJ 1252 b is the name of the exoplanet, which is 65 light-years away. Its "dayside" faces its star constantly, raising the exoplanet's temperature. It is far closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun.

It was determined that GJ 1252 b's dayside temperatures peaked at a sweltering 2,242 degrees Fahrenheit when researchers used the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope to study infrared radiation from the exoplanet as it passed behind its star (1,228 degrees Celsius).

Position in Stellar Map of star GJ 1252 and its Exoplanet GJ 1252 b

Not only would gold, silver, and copper melt on the planet's surface at these temperatures, but GJ 1252 b would struggle to hold on to a dense atmosphere due to the tremendous heat.

The group believes that this intense temperature is in line with what would be predicted for a planet with a stony, naked surface.

Habitable zone calculated based on SEAU(Solar Equivalent Astronomical Unit) around the star GJ 1252

The scientists also discovered that the surface pressure of GJ 1252 b is only 10 bars, which means that its atmosphere, if it exists, must be considerably less than Venus' atmosphere.

The astronomers calculated that an even atmosphere on GJ 1252 b would have been stripped from the planet within the period of a million years, significantly less than the exoplanet's predicted lifetime of 3.9 billion years. This would have resulted in a surface pressure 10 times greater than this.

The scientists came to the conclusion that GJ 1252 b has an extremely constrained atmosphere or potentially no atmosphere at all in their paper, which was released on September 23 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

According to Ian Crossfield, the study's principal investigator and an astronomer at the University of Kansas, this is the tiniest planet for which researchers have as of yet established strict atmospheric limits.

Over the next few years, further study of GJ 1252 b with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may impose even stricter limits on the planet's atmosphere, or lack thereof.

According to Crossfield in the statement, Spitzer was the only instrument in the known cosmos at the time that could perform these kinds of measurements. "Now that Spitzer has been turned off, JWST is there and is significantly more sensitive than Spitzer was at these wavelengths."

The job Crossfield and his team completed with Spitzer will therefore be much simpler with JWST.

The surface characteristics of these hot, rocky planets may be revealed by JWST infrared measurements, according to Kreidberg. We might be able to determine what kind of rock GJ 1252b is made of since various forms of rock have distinctive spectral signatures.

Further research on GJ 1252 b may therefore reveal the planet's makeup, and this study may be extended to several other terrestrial planets like GJ 1252 b, the researchers added. This would help astronomers better comprehend small, hot exoplanets.

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Edited By: Prabhjot Singh Maan ( LinkedIn )


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