MIT Researchers Discover Exoplanet That Orbits Its Star in Just 8.5 Hours

Posted on August 19, 2013

Kepler 78b

MIT researchers have discovered an exoplanet that orbits its star in just 8.5 hours. It is one of the shortest orbital periods ever detected. The Earth-sized planet, Kepler 78b, is located 700 light-years away. It is very close to its star and may have surface temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees Kelvin, or more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The scientists were able to detect light emitted by the planet. This the first time that researchers have been able to do so for an exoplanet as small as Kepler 78b. Because Kepler 78b is so close to its star scientists hope to measure its gravitational influence on the star. This information could be used to measure the planet's mass, which could make Kepler 78b the first Earth-sized planet outside our own solar system whose mass is known.

Josh Winn, an associate professor of physics at MIT, said in a statement, "Just the fact that it's able to survive there implies that it's very dense. Whether nature actually makes planets that are dense enough to survive even closer in, that's an open question, and would be even more amazing."

The research was published here in The Astrophysical Journal and here in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Image: Cristina Sanchis Ojeda/MIT