Photo by: NASA

NASA

Yet Another Exoplanet That You’ll Never Want to Visit

Ready for an exotic vacation? How about…really exotic? Tired of tropical beaches or snow-covered mountains? Let’s go…out of this world.

January 05, 2022

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Exoplanets are just cracking me up at this point and seems like the solar systems of our galaxy were created by some very drunk aliens in a vast game of trying to out-weird each other. Here’s the latest entry: exoplanet GJ 367b.

Identified with NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) observatory and confirmed with the European Southern Observatory in Chile, GJ 267b is located about 30 light-years away from Earth.

This world has only 72% the radius of the Earth but only a little more than half its mass. It’s so close to its parent star that a “year” on GJ 267b is only 7.7 of our hours long. That makes GJ 267b to be the first known ultrashort-period planet (a kind of planet with years measured in days) that is smaller and lighter than the Earth.

What is GJ 267b? It has a density of about 8.1 grams per cubic centimeter, which is just a little less than the density of solid iron. That suggests that the entire planet is mostly iron, surrounded by a thin, rocky crust, like the shell of a piece of candy only on the inside it’s not sugar but iron.

In our own solar system, Mercury also has a weird large iron core. It’s thought that Mercury was once a lot bigger, but suffered a major collision early in its history. That collision stripped it of all the lighter stuff, leaving behind a planet made of mostly core stuff, like iron.

Mercury's rugged, cratered landscape illuminated obliquely by the sun.

Photo by: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Mercury's rugged, cratered landscape illuminated obliquely by the sun.

Perhaps something similar happened to GJ 267b. Or maybe it’s the remains of a gas giant that wandered too close to its parent star. When that happens, the heat of the star’s radiation rips away all the lighter gases like hydrogen and helium, leaving behind only the burnt-up husk.

We’ll never know what made GJ 267b so darn special. And we’re only beginning to crack the surface of what makes these ultrashort-period planets have their ultrashort periods in the first place.

In the case of GJ 267b, no matter what, it’s not fun. The world is so close to its parent star that its surface temperature is somewhere in the ballpark of 1400 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s molten-lava-hot. Across the entire face of the world. All the time, day and night. Forever.

Have a fun vacation!

Learn More about the Universe

Journey Through the Cosmos in an All-New Season of How the Universe Works

The new season premieres on Science Channel and streams on discovery+.

Paul M. Sutter

Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at Stony Brook University and the Flatiron Institute, host of Ask a Spaceman and Space Radio, and author of How to Die in Space.

Next Up

Why Mercury Matters

At first, the planet Mercury isn't much to look at. It has a surface only a mother could love, as desolate and empty as the Moon and pock-marked with crater after crater. But this planet has a secret, which has folks wanting to know more.

Jupiter Makes Its Closest Approach to Earth in Nearly 60 Years

The last time Jupiter appeared this large and bright in the sky was in October 1963.

The Best Planets are Rogue Planets

We can debate the status of objects in the solar system all day long, arguing if little Pluto is a planet or not. But to tell you the truth, any planet in any solar system got the short end of the stick. The real winners of the galactic game are the travelers, the roamers, the rogue planets.

Why Charting the Most Extreme Objects in the Solar System Matters

So the astronomers called it “FarFarOut”, which is mostly a joke because the last time they found such a distant object it they nicknamed it “FarOut”, and this new world is much, much, farther out.

Meet WASP-127b, the Fluffiest Planet in the Galaxy

Take a planet with the mass of, say, Saturn. You know, pretty big, but not ridiculously big. Just…normal big.

The First Exoplanet Found…Outside the Galaxy!

This new planet has had a pretty rough life.

NASA Has Announced Plans for the Next Decade of Space Missions, And It’s Awesome

Personally speaking, I feel like we’ve been focusing on Mars a little bit too much recently. Sure, the Red Planet is all sorts of awesome – so awesome it may have once been a home for life – but with more than half a dozen orbiters, landers, and rovers, it’s certainly got its due.

How Exoplanets Became the Next Big Thing in Astronomy

To date, we know of over 5,000 planets outside the solar system. And astronomers suspect that there may be *checks notes* around a trillion more in our galaxy alone. The search for exoplanets is one of the hottest topics in astronomy, with expensive telescopes and giant collaborations all searching for the holy grail of the 21st century: an Earth 2.0, a habitable world like our own.

Why Astronomers Care About Super-Old Galaxies?

A long time ago, our universe was dark.It was just 380,000 years after the big bang. Up until that age, our entire observable cosmos was less than a millionth of its present size. All the material in the universe was compressed into that tiny volume, forcing it to heat up and become a plasma. But as the universe expanded and cooled, eventually the plasma changed into a neutral gas as the first atoms formed.

What We’ve Already Learned From James Webb? (Hint: it’s a lot)

That was worth the wait. Just a quick handful of months since its historic launch on Christmas Day, the James Webb Space Telescope has flown to its observing position, unfolded its delicate instruments and ultra-sized mirror, and run through a suite of checks and alignments and calibrations. The team at NASA behind the telescopes released their first batch of images from the science runs, and besides being gorgeous, they're powerful.

Related To: