Astronomers Have Just Discovered Hell

Hell has an address: 55 Cancri-e is the first alien planet to have some of its surface features directly observed. And it’s no tropical paradise.

For some time 55 Cancri-e has been considered “strange.” Some felt it may be made of diamond. Others suggested it was covered in exotic fluids.

So an international team of astronomers headed up by the University of Cambridge has examined data captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope about this 40 light-year-distant “super-Earth.”

Orbiting a sun-like star in the constellation Cancer, the astronomers observed the rocky planet through several entire orbits — each just 18 hours.

What they found is a world of extremes.

  • The planet is tidal-locked, meaning one face is permanently pointing toward the star.
  • This face is a sea of molten lava, with a surface temperature of 2,400 degrees C (4,352 F).
  • The “dark side” is barely better.
  • It’s solid — but simmering at 1,100 C (2,012 F).

All this is odd: It shouldn’t be that hot, astronomers say, even though it does sit relatively close to its star.

They also found an out-of-place “hot spot.”

At about the halfway point between the point closest to the star and the night side is a bright streak.

The astronomers suggest this may be fast-flowing lava, behaving in a way very similar to water due to its extreme temperature.

“This shift either indicates some degree of heat recirculation confined to the day side, or points to surface features with extremely high temperatures, such as lava flows,” a statement reads.

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