Kepler space telescope has given science a new planet named Kepler 78b, and a giant mystery along with it. While the planes is very similar to earth, it’s a lot closer to it’s sun. In fact, it’s so close that it shouldn’t even exist there.
This odd planet became a poster-child for new types of planets, but it doesn’t have long to live, at least in astronomical terms. It’s currently less than a million miles away from the sun, but it’s getting pulled closer and closer. It has about three billion years before gravity will pull it into the star that it orbits around. Once that happens Kepler 78b will explode. It’s just too close. So close, in fact that it orbits the sun every eight and a half hours compared to an entire year that Earth takes to complete the same journey.
Its proximity to the sun is where the mystery lies; how could that even happen? Since the star was a lot larger when that solar system was formed, the orbit of Kepler 78b was occupied by that very sun, so the planet couldn’t have formed in this orbit. The planet would’ve had to orbit inside the sun for that to happen, which just isn’t possible.
The other hypothesis of where this planet came from was also rejected. If Kepler 78b was formed elsewhere and was pushed into the current orbit, then it wouldn’t have stopped moving, but would have rather keep flying strait into the star.
Kepler 78b is the first planet of this type to have it’s density measured. The planet is very close in size to earth, only 20% larger, and about twice the earth’s mass. It’s density is very close as well, which indicates that the composition of the two planets are very similar, iron and rock. If it wasn’t for the scorching heat that resulted from it’s proximity to the sun, this molten ball of lava might have been suitable for life forms close to the ones of earth.
It is possible that even our solar system might have had a planet similar to Kepler 78b. If it did, it’s long since dead, leaving no trace of it’s existence. In the ever-changing universe many answers are burned out of existence, yet many others are waiting to be discovered. The mystery of these new types of planes might have its answer hidden somewhere out there, somewhere where astronomers and theorist can find them.
For the time being, however, this planet goes against the current theories of planet formation. Finding out how planets can end up so close to their star can add a lot to the current theories, or might change them. This makes Kepler 78b a very interesting planet for scientists to stick their teeth into. This giant ball of lava just might lead us to a new understanding of the universe that we live in.
This discovery alone makes Kepler telescope worth every penny. Many other planes were discovered through this telescope, including super-earths located in the inhabitable zone, making it a huge part in the world of astronomy.
By Lidia Zakutnaya