first_imgIn the large emptiness of space, we know some amazing planets and conditions exist. Even in our own solar system, Jupiter has a persistent storm larger than the size of Earth. MIT researchers have discovered a new exoplanet to add to the growing weird-things-we-find-in-space list. This time around, the exoplanet orbits its star in 8.5 hours time, which means it has a year that’s about the length of a workday.In order to have such a short year, the exoplanet — named Kepler 78b — is very close to its star. It’s so close that the temperature on the planet hovers at about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and the orbital radius is only around three times larger than the radius of the star itself. It’s about 40 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun. Due to the extreme heat, the planet’s surface is theorized to be a flowing ocean of lava. The proximity of Kepler 78b to its star leads the researchers to believe that they can measure the gravitational influence on the star, which in turn could reveal the star’s mass. This would make it the first planet similar in size to Earth outside of our solar system with a known mass.Kepler 78b was discovered in a batch of 150,000 stars, a group that the researchers are studying in order to identify habitable planets similar in size to Earth. In order to find the planet, the scientists used a method by which they observed a star’s light, and measured if there was a drop in the output. They can determine the difference between a planet or star passing over by way of analyzing the size of the drop in light output. A smaller drop is likely caused by a planet.We can’t live on a lava world, of course, but researchers have determined that it could be possible to live on a planet with a very short orbital period. It’s star, though, would have to be one that didn’t ignite, such as a brown dwarf.last_img read more