James Webb can solve the mystery of the signals from the “hellish world”

The planet 55 Cancri e is a very hot super-Earth, from which strange signals have been recorded for 20 years. Scientists have figured out how to explain them by natural causes. However, only the James Webb Telescope can confirm the theories raised.

Hellish world 55 Cancri e. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Message of 55 Cancri e

Scientists have made a curious assumption, explaining the behavior of one unusual planet. 55 Cancri e was discovered in 2004. It is part of an orbiting red dwarf located 40 light-years from the Sun. 

Although this star is very dim, the distance between it and 55 Cancri e is only 2 percent of that by which the Earth is removed from the Sun. As a result, a year on it lasts only 17 hours, and the conditions can be called “hellish”. Studies have shown that its daytime side is heated to 2427 °C, and on the “night” side, although it is much cooler, temperatures still reach 11127 °C.

However, this is not the main mystery. When 55 Cancri e passes between its star and us, it eclipses the light, as it should be. However, when this hellish world “hides” from us behind a red dwarf, strange phenomena are observed. In some cases, the visible light emitted by it reaches us, and in others it does not. At the same time, the signal in the infrared part of the range is always present.

Why does the “hellish world” behave like this?

In a new study, scientists have tried to explain the strange behavior of 55 Cancri e. In their opinion, the proximity of this planet to its star entails frequent volcanic eruptions. They emit a large amount of gases and dust rich in carbon, which form a dense atmosphere around the planet.

However, due to the temperature and high radiation exposure, the “hellish world” is not able to keep them for a long time. After a while, they “deflate” over it, and the planet becomes atmosphere-free. Then everything repeats again.

Scientists explain the strange situation with this cycle, when the signal in visible light is either there or not. Obviously, when it is present, it means intense reflection of the star’s light by clouds in the atmosphere. And when the gas shell disappears, only infrared radiation from the heated surface remains.

This is an excellent theory, but the facts available now can neither confirm nor refute it. That’s why researchers need the James Webb Telescope. Its powerful spectrographs will determine not only the presence of the atmosphere but also its chemical composition.

According to www.space.com

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