NASA to reveal hell-like planet raining lava at night

NASA will soon reveal an enhanced look at two exoplanets that look a lot like Earth, though you might want to wait to pack your bags.

One of the first orders of NASA’s famous James Webb Telescope is to take a closer look at 55 Cancri e, a super-hot planet that orbits closer to its central star than Mercury does to the Sun. This means the planet is likely covered in flowing magma, according to NASA scientists. They also believe that the potential existence of a weak atmosphere on the planet means that it could rain lava at night.

The planet only takes 18 hours to orbit its central star. When planets orbit so close to stars, they usually orbit in a way called “tidally locked” where the same side of the planet faces the star at all times. But scientists believe that this planet could be spinning, meaning that the heat generated by its proximity to the star is spreading through its globe. Experts will also hopefully determine whether the planet contains nitrogen or oxygen.

Scientists also plan to observe another exoplanet, called LHS 3844 b, which is much cooler than its lava lake counterpart. This appears to be solid rock and contains no atmosphere. The telescope won’t be able to photograph the planet’s surface, but scientists will use other instruments to measure infrared signals and other data points to try to determine the planet’s geological makeup.

The James Webb Telescope is recognized as the world’s premier telescope, run by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.


The findings of both will help give the scientific community a better understanding of the origins of our own Earth.

“They will give us fantastic new insights into Earth-like planets in general,” Laura Kreidberg of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Astronomy said in a NASA statement. “[They’ll help] let’s learn what early Earth was like when it was warm like these planets are today.”

The James Webb Telescope is part of an international space program that will explore our solar system and beyond. For most of 2022, shortly after its launch into space, scientists calibrated and tweaked its instruments. But now it is fully ready for its exploration mission guided by Earthlings from NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

“As we approach the end of the observatory’s preparation for science, we are on the brink of an incredibly exciting time of discovery about our universe,” Eric Smith, a scientist who works on the Webb program, told The NASA. “The release of Webb’s first color images will give us all a unique moment to stop and marvel at a sight that mankind has never seen before. These images will be the culmination of decades of dedication, talent and dreams – but they too are just the beginning.”

The first images from the telescope will be unveiled on July 12. Images from other projects, including those of the two exoplanets, will be released during its first year of operation.

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