Astronomers have discovered a new planet Super-Earth that is almost as old as the universe itself, but despite what the name may suggest, the words “Super Earth” speak only of the size of the exoplanet, as this new planet bears little resemblance to Earth. Riverside News calls this new Super Earth TOI-561b and it is 50% larger than Earth. No matter how much larger it is than the Earth orbiting its star, the Sun orbits its star every 365 days in less than half a day. The TOI-561b is quite different from Earth around the world, but the reason it is called Super Earth is almost exclusively because of its size.
“Super-Earths – a class of planets like none in our solar system – are more massive than Earth, but lighter than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus, and can be made from gas, rocks, or a combination of both,” NASA says. the official definition of Super Earth. “They are between twice the size of Earth and up to 10 times its mass. Super-Earth only refers to the size of an exoplanet – larger than Earth and smaller than Neptune – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are similar to our home planet.” UC Riverside planetary astrophysicist Stephen Kane said that for every day we spend on Earth, TOI-561b orbits its star twice. The reason for this rapid orbit is the heat generated by the immediate vicinity of the planet of the star orbiting it. The temperature of TOI-561b is above 2000 degrees Kelvin, which is obviously too hot for life, as we know it exists on the planet. Another reason for the fast orbit is due to the density of the planet, which is about equal to the density of the Earth.
“This is surprising because we would expect the density to be higher,” Kane said. “This is in line with the notion that the planet is extremely old.”The older the planet, the less dense it is in general and this is because the materials that make the planet dense were simply not as rich, farther back in time. According to UC Riverside News, the materials that eventually form dense planets are heavy elements formed by the fusion reactions of stars as they age. When stars explode, the elements scatter outward and these elements form new stars and new planets.
Since the TOI-561b is not nearly as dense as we expected, astronomers who discovered Super Earth believe it is as old as space itself at the time, the heavy elements to create a denser planet would not be as readily available as fewer stars exploded as they were not old.
For more science, read how the Earth rotates faster than in 50 years, and then check out this story of how the Moon rusts. Read about how a space object that went past Earth was probably followed by aliens, and then read this story about how researchers are trying to turn Mars into green.
Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and maker of guides for IGN. You can follow him forward Twitter @LeBlancWes.