Astronomers Discover 'Hellish' Planet Hotter Than Molten Lava

Famous for its lovely warm weather, TOI-1431b is this year's hottest travel destination.
Derya Ozdemir
TOI-1431b with its sunUniversity of Southern Queensland

A global team of astronomers, led by astrophysicist Brett Addison from the University of Southern Queensland's Centre for Astrophysics in Toowoomba, have discovered a new planet called TOI-1431b — however, the welcome it offers is a bit too hot for human visitors, or matter of fact, for anything, really.

TOI-1431b was first flagged by NASA's Training Exoplanet Survey Satellite as a possible planet in late 2019. Follow-up observations helped scientists confirm the planet's existence.

The newly discovered world TOI-1431b, also known as MASCARA-5b, is located about 490 light-years away from our planet. It is pretty big — It's three times more massive than Jupiter!

It is so close to its relatively bright and hot sun that it has an orbit time of two and a half days, and is officially among the hottest planets ever discovered. The temperatures there are high enough to vaporize most metals, and in fact, TOI-1431b is even warmer than some red dwarf stars — the smallest, coolest, and most common type of star.

Just how hot?

Such exceptionally hot places are known as ultra-hot Jupiters, and they are quite rare. Astrophysicist Dr. Brett Addison, who led the study, described TOI-1431b as "a hellish world".

"In terms of real-world examples for just how hot the planet is, the planet is hotter than the melting point of most metals and hotter than molten lava. In fact, the dayside temperature of the planet is hotter than 40 percent of stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The temperature of the planet is approaching that of the exhaust from a rocket engine," said Addison to CNET.

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There are other facts that make TOI-1431b even more interesting — like the fact that it orbits in retrograde, which is when a planet appears to go backward in its orbit.

“If you look at the Solar System, all the planets orbit in the same direction that the Sun rotates and they're all along the same plane. This new planet’s orbit is tilted so much that it is actually going in the opposite direction to the rotation of its host star,” he explained.

With temperatures hot enough to make most metals vaporize, TOI-1431b might not seem like a good place for summer vacation, but for astronomers, it represents an opportunity to better understand the movements and atmospheres of these planets.

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