Astronomers Discover New Earth-like Metallic Exoplanet

TWARWICK – A hot, metallic, Earth-sized planet situated 339 light years away has been detected and characterized by a global team of astronomers, Science Daily reported on March 27.

Planet K2-229b is almost 20% larger than Earth, however, its mass is over 2.5 times greater than our blue globe, making its density similar to the small Solar planet Mercury.

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Unlike Earth, since K2-229b lies at a very close distance from its host star at 0.012 AU, the dayside temperature at reaches over 2000°C.

The host star of K2-229b is a medium-sized active K orange dwarf star in the Virgo Constellation. The exoplanet orbits it every 14 hours.

Dr. David Armstrong and his colleagues at the University of Warwick, UK, in addition to researchers from Aix-Marseille Université in France and the Universidade do Porto in Portugal discovered the planet with the aid of NASA space observatory Kepler K2 telescope.

In fact, exoplanets’ discoveries aren’t as simple as observing the sky via an Earth-based optical telescope.

Actually, the crew of astronomers knew the planet was there due to dips in the light from its host star as it orbited, periodically blocking starlight.

They then calculated the size, position, and mass of K2-229b by measuring a couple of its host star’s characteristics.

One of these measuring factors was finding out how much the starlight ‘wobbles’ during orbit, due to the gravitational tug from the planet, which changes depending on the planet’s size.

At a time when the science of Astronomy was still primitive, the expansion of the universe had been described in the Quran:

{And it is We who have built the Universe with [Our creative] power and keep expanding it.} (Quran 51:47)

The fact that the universe is expanding was discovered in the last century. The physicist Stephen Hawking in his book ‘A Brief History of Time’ writes, “The discovery that the universe is expanding was one of the great intellectual revolutions of the 20th century.”.

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Such discoveries help us understand planetary formations including the humanity’s home Planet Earth and our neighboring solar planets like Mercury.

Professor Armstrong explained that Mercury stands out from the other Solar System terrestrial planets, showing a very high fraction of iron and implying it formed in a different way.

“We were surprised to see an exoplanet with the same high density, showing that Mercury-like planets are perhaps not as rare as we thought,” he said.

“Interestingly, K2-229b is also the innermost planet in a system of at least three planets, though all three orbits are much closer to their star than Mercury.”

The dense, metallic nature of K2-229b has numerous potential origins, and one hypothesis is that its atmosphere might have been eroded by intense stellar wind and flares, as the planet is so close to its star.

“Another possibility is that K2-229b was formed after a huge impact between two giant astronomical bodies in space billions of years ago,” Armstrong suggested.