(STUDY FINDS) -- LAWRENCE, Kan. — As Earth telescopes scan the stars for planets that may support life, they also find plenty of things that leave astronomers scratching their heads. Researchers say a planet they call a “hot Neptune” falls right into the head-scratching category. Not only does this scolding hot world travel around its sun in less than a day, it has an atmosphere that “shouldn’t exist.”
University of Kansas astronomer Ian Crossfield says new data from NASA’s TESS and Spitzer space telescopes is providing the first look at an exoplanet’s atmosphere the satellites captured. Planet LTT 9779b, which sits about 260 light-years from Earth and is so close to its home star it doesn’t have ground for a probe to land on.
“This planet doesn’t have a solid surface, and it’s much hotter even than Mercury in our solar system — not only would lead melt in the atmosphere of this planet, but so would platinum, chromium and stainless steel,” Crossfield explains in a media release. “A year on this planet is less than 24 hours — that’s how quickly it’s whipping around its star. It’s a pretty extreme system.”
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