Scientists discover blistering Earth-sized planet that may become historic

A team of astronomers discovered an Earth-sized planet that is being showered in so much radiation that its atmosphere has completely dissipated.

1 minute & 36 seconds read time

Astronomers published a new study in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy detailing the discovery of an exoplanet called SPECULOOS-3 b.

Scientists discover blistering Earth-sized planet that may become historic 125665165

The newly found exoplanet is approximately 55 light-years away from Earth, which is in the world of astronomy is extremely close to our planet, given the vastness of the Milky Way. SPECULOOS-3 b orbits its host star once every 17 hours, and astronomers expect that its also tidally locked, meaning one side of the planet is perpetually being blasted by host stars light, while the other side is stuck in perpetual cold darkness.

Due to its proximity to its host star, SPECULOOS-3 b is being bathed in high amounts of radiation, peeling away any form of atmosphere the planet may have had at one stage. The lack of atmosphere and the impossibility of hosting water due to its extreme temperatures make SPECULOOS-3 b inhospitable to life as we know it, but that isn't why astronomers are excited about it.

SPECULOOS-3 b is a rocky planet that is close enough to Earth that, for the first time, scientists might be able to study the geology of a planet outside of our solar system.

"Life as we know it could not emerge on the surface of the planet - atmosphere or not - because it could not sustain large amounts of water in liquid form," study lead author Michaël Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium, told Live Science. "It is a bare rock planet like Mercury."

The team have already planned observations with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will be able to determine the chemical make up of the world. With the data acquired by the JWST, researchers will know if the planet was previously geologically active, even down to the point of it volcanoes ever erupted on the planet's surface.

"With this world, we could basically start doing exoplanetary geology," said study co-author Julien de Wit, an assistant professor of planetary sciences at MIT. "How cool is that?"

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