Earth-like Planet Discovered, but It's Hotter Than...

...Hell, at less than a million miles from its sun

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 31, 2013 9:40 AM CDT

(Newser) – Astronomers have discovered a planet where a certain red guy with horns could make himself right at home. It's a planet much like our own Earth—about the same size, with the same mixture of rock and iron, and it orbits a star like our sun—except that Kepler 78b is an infernal ball of fire. Located less than a million miles from its host star—that's 1% of the distance between Earth and our sun—its temperature ranges between 3,500 and 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That's "well above the temperature where rock melts," an astronomer tells the New York Times. "This is probably one of the most hellish planets that have been discovered yet."

At 400 light-years from Earth, the exoplanet was first spotted by the Kepler spacecraft but astronomers on Earth took a closer look at its light frequency to discover its orbit and mass. The findings, published in two studies in Nature, show a planet that tightly orbits its sun—which from the surface would look 80 times larger than our sun—in just eight and a half hours. Adds an expert, per LiveScience: "This planet is an enigma. It couldn't have formed in place because you can't form a planet inside a star." But while astronomers are baffled as to how the planet got there, they're fairly certain it shows friendlier Earthlike planets are still out there.

This artist's rendering on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 shows the planet Kepler-78b, foreground, orbiting less than one million miles from its sun.
This artist's rendering on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 shows the planet Kepler-78b, foreground, orbiting less than one million miles from its sun.   (AP Photo/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, David A. Aguilar)
This artist's rendering shows a comparison between the Earth and planet Kepler 78b which is located in the Cygnus constellation hundreds of light-years away.
This artist's rendering shows a comparison between the Earth and planet Kepler 78b which is located in the Cygnus constellation hundreds of light-years away.   (AP Photo/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, David A. Aguilar)
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