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Evidence of atmosphere discovered on rocky exoplanet 55 Cancri e
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Evidence of atmosphere discovered on rocky exoplanet 55 Cancri e
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) May 10, 2024

A collaborative study involving multiple research institutions including NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of New Mexico, recently published in Nature, reveals that the exoplanet 55 Cancri e may possess an atmosphere-a surprising discovery given its harsh conditions.

The exoplanet, situated just 41 light years away, orbits its sun-like star at a close proximity that results in extreme temperatures. Its unique orbit, completing a full cycle in less than a day, ensures one side of the planet is always exposed to daylight while the other remains in constant night.

"The discovery of an atmosphere on 55 Cancri e is the clearest piece of information we have obtained so far," said UNM Assistant Professor Diana Dragomir, who has been closely studying the exoplanet since her doctoral thesis.

The presence of the atmosphere is attributed to volcanic activity on the planet, which likely contributes to maintaining a secondary atmosphere through continuous emissions of volcanic gases. This recent insight into 55 Cancri e's atmosphere was enabled by the James Webb Space Telescope, which provided the high-resolution images necessary for this level of analysis.

The research suggests the atmosphere could be composed of vaporized rock and gases such as carbon monoxide and dioxide. "This study is one of the first of its kind to utilize Webb telescope data for exoplanet atmosphere analysis," noted Michael Bess, a recent graduate who collaborated on the project.

While the planet is too hostile for life as we know it, the discovery advances our understanding of planetary formation and atmosphere retention under extreme conditions.

Further investigations are required to confirm these findings and to explore other characteristics of 55 Cancri e, potentially unlocking more secrets of this intriguing exoplanet. "The ability to study such distant rocky planets in detail is a testament to the advances in our astronomical technologies," Dragomir added.

Research Report:A secondary atmosphere on the rocky Exoplanet 55 Cancri e

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University of New Mexico
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