A few months back I wrote about some recent findings about an exoplanet called Corot-7b and added some of my own uninformed speculation on it. And now there’s a new paper for me to pretend I understand. Hooray!
If you remember, Corot-7b is supposed to be a decent candidate in the early search for extraterrestrial life due to its density being vaguely similar to that of Earth. On the other hand, it orbits so close to its star that it only takes 0.85 Earth days for one revolution. And it’s locked into this rate of rotation where one hemisphere is always facing its star, much like our Moon is to Earth. So it’s incredibly hot on half of its surface and the other half of its surface never gets sunlight and is unbelievably cold. Oh yeah, and it rains rocks there because the heavier elements on the surface melt and then go up into its atmosphere, where they then cool down, condense, and fall back down.
This new paper by a team of astronomers at the Italian Institute for Interplanetary Space Physics in Rome is saying that some of those melted elements escape the atmosphere, creating something like a comet’s tail. Apparently Mercury is in a similar situation in our own solar system. From Wired’s Science Blog:
“The planet appears to be more like a ’super-Mercury’ under much extremer environmental conditions,” the researchers write.
So hopefully soon these astronomers or others will get some actual pictures of this awesome planet/comet/Mercury-ish tail thing.