One of the Webb telescope’s first missions will scope out two hot exoplanets

55 cancri e webb
According to NASA, the image is a rendering of what 55 Cancri e might look like based on current information. “55 Cancri e is a rocky planet with a diameter almost twice that of Earth orbiting just 0.015 astronomical units from its Sun-like star. Because of its tight orbit, the planet is extremely hot, with dayside temperatures reaching 4,400 degrees Fahrenheit (about 2,400 degrees Celsius)”. NASA, ESA, CSA, Dani Player (STScI)

After much breath-holding and anticipation, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is just weeks away from being completely operational. The mirror segments are successfully aligned and the last step is to calibrate its scientific instruments. When ready, the JWST will spend part of its first year gazing out at two exoplanets.

The hot exoplanets have been classified as “super-Earths” based on their sizes and rocky compositions. Why do we say hot? The average temperature on Earth is 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, these two orbs, known as LHS 3844 b (“Hot Rocky”) and 55 Cancri e (“Super-Hot Rocky”) have average temperatures of 1,000 degrees and 3,100 degrees, respectively. Scientists plan to use JWST’s high-precision spectrographs (instruments that separate light by wavelength or frequency) to study the planets, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of geologic diversity and evolution of rocky planets, Earth included.

Related: 17 photos of the new James Webb Space Telescope

What is 55 Cancri e?

55 Cancri e, the hotter exoplanet of the two, orbits its sun-like star at a distance of less than 1.5 million miles, which is roughly 1/25th the stretch between Mercury and the Sun. Thus, a day on 55 Cancri e is 18 hours, and the proximity and orbit mean surface temperatures are well above the melting point of rock-forming minerals.

Supposedly, the sun-facing surface of the exoplanet is (Read more…)