Astronomers discover scorching pi planet with 3.14-day orbit

Shane McGlaun - Sep 22, 2020, 6:51am CDT
Astronomers discover scorching pi planet with 3.14-day orbit

Researchers at MIT worked with scientists from other institutions to discover a new planet that is earth-sized and orbits its parent star in only 3.14 days. The so-called “pi planet” was first discovered in 2017 when Kepler’s K2 mission discovered signals of the planet. This year, researchers zeroed in on the system using SPECULOOS, which is a network of ground-based telescopes.

Using that system the team was able to confirm the signals Kepler picked up were in fact a planet orbiting a star. Researchers say that the planet moves like “clockwork” with “pi Earth” making a full orbit around its star in 3.14-days. The official name for the planet is K2-315b, it’s the 315th planetary system discovered using the K2 data.

Researchers estimate the planet has a radius of 0.95 that of Earth’s making it essentially Earth-sized. It orbits a cool, low-mass star about a fifth of the size of the sun. To make its orbit so quickly, the planet spins around its star at 81 kilometers per second or about 181,000 mph. Scientists have yet to determine the planet’s mass, but it is suspected that the planet is terrestrial like Earth.

Researchers don’t believe the planet is habitable as its orbit brings the planet close enough to the star to heat the surface to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers say that temperature would be too hot to be habitable in the common understanding of the phrase.

The planet is a promising candidate for follow-up with the James Webb Space Telescope to try and learn details of its atmosphere, according to scientists. For now, scientists are using other data sets to learn more about the planet, including data from the TESS mission.

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