Scientists have revealed the discovery of a hot, rocky Super Earth orbiting one of the oldest stars in the Milky Way. Nicknamed “TOI-561b”, this planet is about 50% bigger than ours, however, due to its proximity to the celestial body, it takes less than half an Earth day to make the rotation. In addition, although the planet is approximately three times the mass of the Earth, the team calculated that it has similar density.
To confirm its existence, members of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) project went to the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, where it houses some of the most powerful space telescopes. “TOI-561b is one of the oldest rocky planets ever discovered. Its existence shows that the universe forms planets with these conditions almost since its beginning, 14 billion years ago, ”commented Lauren Weiss, team leader at the University of Hawaii.
According to the work, the site, 280 light years away from Earth, has an average surface temperature above 1,726 degrees Celsius, a fact that makes it too hot to support any form of life. “It is surprising, because you expect the density to be higher. This implies that the planet is extremely old, ”said Stephen Kane, an astrophysicist who was a member of the study, in a statement from the University of California, Riverside.
“Information about the internal structure of a planet gives us an idea if the surface is habitable for life as we know it. Although it is unlikely that this particular planet will be inhabited today, it can be a harbinger of many rocky worlds yet to be discovered around the oldest stars in our galaxy, ”commented Kane.
The researcher points out that older planets have lower density due to the lack of heavy elements available in their formation, unlike typical stars in the Milky Way. In this case, iron and magnesium, for example, would be produced by fusion reactions in the stars as they age.
The discovery of the planet TOI-561b and additional observations the team made about its composition were published in the Astronomical Journal and presented during an American Astronomical Society conference last Monday (11).