Just recently, NASA disclosed that its Spitzer Space Telescope captured images of a Moon-like exoplanet that also resembles Mercury. It was first discovered by TESS (the Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey) in 2018, but just recently Spitzer has focused on it, so more features had been revealed to the astronomers.
Is this Moon-like exoplanet different than the thousand other exoplanets found until now? The exoplanet is located in the Indus constellation, and the distance between it and Earth is 48.6 light-years. The Moon-like exoplanet was named LHS 3844b, and it orbits a dwarf star and is 1.3 times the mass of our planet.
The newly discovered exoplanet features a rocky surface, most likely solidified ancient basaltic lava and researchers believe that the exoplanet does not have an atmosphere. An exciting aspect of LHS 3844b is that its orbit around its sun takes only 11 hours, which is quite fast even for it.
Moon-Like Exoplanet Spotted By NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope
NASA believes that the exoplanet shows only one side of it to its star, just like the Moon does to Earth. Another fact is that the planet is very close to its sun. Therefore, the surface temperature on the part that faces the sun reaches up to 770 degrees Celsius (1,410 degrees Fahrenheit), while the temperature on the dark side extremely cold.
These discoveries lead the scientists to believe that the planet has no atmosphere; if it had, there would have been winds that would warm the dark side and cool the hot side. The absence of the atmosphere is something the researchers will focus because by studying it, and they can understand how and in what conditions the atmosphere of a planet formed or not.
One of their explanations is that LHS 3844b’s sun emits very high levels of ultraviolet radiation and solar flares that most likely destroyed any trace of an atmosphere the planet could have had. Astronomers are still hopeful that they will someday find an exoplanet that is at the right distance from its sun and has an atmosphere that can facilitate the apparition of air.