NASA details big LHS 3844b exoplanet covered in dark lava rock

Brittany A. Roston - Aug 19, 2019, 3:08 pm CDT
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NASA details big LHS 3844b exoplanet covered in dark lava rock

NASA has published a study detailing a rocky exoplanet called LHS 3844b discovered last December by the space agency’s Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey (TESS) mission. This planet is located 48.6 light-years from our planet and has a mass about 1.3 times greater than that of Earth. According to the study, LHS 3844b doesn’t have an atmosphere and its surface is likely covered by dark, cool lava rock.

The study involves data gathered by the Spitzer Space Telescope, which enabled NASA researchers to shed light on the nature of LHS 3844b, a big Earth-like planet orbiting the small, cool M dwarf star. NASA explains that this type of long-lived star may be surrounded by the majority of the planets located in the Milky Way.

It only takes 11 hours for LHS 3844b to fully orbit around its star, meaning it is probably tidally locked to the M dwarf so that one side is always facing the star. As well, the relatively close distance between the two celestial bodies means the star-facing side of LHS 3844b is estimated to have a temperature of around 1,410F.

The observations are notable for a big reason: this is the first time the Spitzer Space Telescope has been able to gather data about an M dwarf star’s terrestrial planet’s atmosphere. NASA says that very little heat is being transferred from the bright hot side of the exoplanet to the cold far side, indicating a lack of wind and therefore little to no atmosphere.

The space agency shared an artist’s depiction of what the exoplanet may look like, but we don’t yet have any actual images of LHS 3844b. The celestial body is described as being akin to a ‘bare rock,’ one that was subjected to harsh radiation from its M dwarf star.


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