They discover a terrestrial planet covered in volcanoes

Description of the planet LP791-18d.

Photo: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith (KRBwyle).

A study published today in the journal Nature A third lander announces the discovery of the planet. “LP791-18d”, as it is called, is orbiting a star, creating a gravitational interaction that causes it to decay slightly. That could cause widespread volcanic activity on its surface, say the authors of the research. (Read the new chapter on Alzheimer’s thanks to the patient’s brain in Paisa)

“The planet LB791-18T shows what is known as tidal coupling, meaning that the same side is constantly facing its star,” says Bjorn Benneke, a researcher at the University of Montreal who led the study. “The daytime would be too warm for liquid water to exist on the surface, but the amount of volcanic activity occurring across the planet could sustain an atmosphere that would allow the water to condense at night.”

During each orbit, “MiniNeptune C” and “Terrestrial Planet D” pass very close to each other. Each approach produces a second gravitational pull, causing its orbit to trace an elliptical path that deforms slightly each time it orbits the star.

These ruptures can create enough internal friction to heat the planet’s interior and create volcanic activity, a phenomenon similar to what Jupiter is doing on its moon Io, which holds the record for volcanic activity in the entire Solar System.

Planet d is at the inner edge of the habitable zone, the region around a star where the pressure and temperature conditions allow liquid water on the surface of a planet.

If the science team suspects that the newly discovered planet is geologically active, it will support an atmosphere, and the temperature will drop enough for water to condense on the planet’s night side.

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“While a team from the University of Montreal was analyzing observations with the Spitzer telescope (NASA), our team detected a signal associated with the planet LP791-18d using our proprietary planet search software,” said Francisco J. Bosuelos says. The Astrophysical Institute of Andalusia, Spain (IAA-CSIC), is participating in the work.

“By processing data from the TESS space telescope, our algorithm detected a signal that had gone undetected, and we launched an observing campaign with ground-based telescopes using the SPECULOOS telescope network and coordinating with other groups involved in the discovery.” He adds.

“Planet c has already been allowed to be observed by the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope, and we believe that planet d is an excellent candidate for atmospheric studies,” concludes Pozuelos.

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Misty Tate

"Freelance twitter advocate. Hardcore food nerd. Avid writer. Infuriatingly humble problem solver."

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