Planet Kepler-78b Is Like Earth, Just A Tad Hotter

Kepler-78b is close in size and content to Earth, with just one difference — the exoplanet’s surface temperature is about 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Astrophysicists say that, at one time, the alien planet could have sustained life, but with temperatures high enough to melt rock, no human would dare set foot on it now.

The planet was discovered last year by NASA’s now-defunct Kepler Space Telescope, reports CBS News. It was then measured and studied by astronomers at observatories on Earth.

Astronomer David Latham of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) commented of the find, “This planet is a complete mystery. We don’t know how it formed or how it got to where it is today. What we do know is that it’s not going to last forever.”

Kepler-78b should be sucked up by its parent star sometime in the next few billion years, notes Discovery. Meanwhile, scientists aren’t sure how the rocky planet even exists. There isn’t any physical way the small world could have evolved in its current location, and there’s isn’t a known mechanism to transport it there.

When the planet’s parent star was in its younger years, it would have been larger than it is now. Astronomers calculated how big the star once was and found that the planet would have had to form inside its star. However, as Dimitar Sasselov, also a CfA astronomer, commented, “It couldn’t have formed in place because you can’t form a planet inside a star.”

Another improbability is the idea that the planet formed in a wider orbit and migrated closer to the star. However, the planet would have already migrated into the star. Sasselov called Kepler-78b “an enigma.”

The new exoplanet is part of a new class of planets discovered by Kepler. The worlds are about the size of Earth and have compact orbits of less than 12 hours. In Kepler-78b’s case, the orbit is about eight hours. Latham added that the Earth-like planet is “the poster child for this new class of planets.”

However, given Kepler-78b’s toasty temperatures, it probably isn’t a good backup plan for when our Earth is in its last days.

[Image via ShutterStock]

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