Astrophysicist Discovers Fiery, Volcanic Planet 66 Light Years Away from Earth

Squeezed by neighbors, planet glows with molten lava

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UC Riverside’s astrophysicist, Stephen Kane, has made a groundbreaking discovery. He has found a planet called HD104067.01 that is situated in a star system far away.

What makes this planet unique is that it is covered in active volcanoes. Although HD104067.01 is rocky and similar in size to Earth, it has 30% more mass. Contrary to Earth, it shares more similarities with Jupiter’s innermost moon, Io, the most volcanically active body in our solar system.

Kane and his team discovered the planet using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which searches for exoplanets that orbit the brightest stars. The planet is in a star system called HD 104067, 66 light years away from our solar system. The system was already known to have a giant planet.

However, TESS discovered signals for a new rocky planet, which led Kane to find yet another one, bringing the number of known planets in the system to three.

Kane calculated that the planet’s surface temperature would be 2,600 degrees Kelvin, which is hotter than some stars. The volcanic activity on the planet is caused by gravitational forces, similar to the volcanic activity on Io.

Io is very close to Jupiter, and the planet’s other moons force it into an elliptical orbit around the planet, which causes its strong gravitational pull to create constant volcanic eruptions.

Similarly, two planets in the HD 104067 system, which are farther away from the star than the new planet, are forcing it into an eccentric orbit around the star.

This causes the planet to be squeezed as it orbits and rotates, leading to tidal energy, a term used when referencing one body’s gravitational effect on another. On Earth, tides are mostly caused by the moon’s gravity dragging our oceans along.

Kane and his colleagues are now working on measuring the mass of the planet to learn its density, which would tell them how much material is available to blow out of the volcanoes.

He believes this discovery will change how we view tidal effects on planets, which historically has yet to be a big focus of exoplanet research.

“This teaches us a lot about the extremes of how much energy can be pumped into a terrestrial planet, and the consequences of that,” Kane said. “While we know that stars contribute to the heat of a planet, the vast majority of the energy here is tidal and that cannot be ignored.”

The findings, now published in The Astronomical Journal, are poised to ignite a new wave of research into exoplanets and the intriguing effects of tidal energy on them, thanks to the groundbreaking work of Kane and his team.

Journal Reference

  1. Stephen R. Kane, Tara Fetherolf, Zhexing Li, Alex S. Polanski, Andrew W. Howard, Howard Isaacson, Teo Močnik, Sadie G. Welter. A Perfect Tidal Storm: HD 104067 Planetary Architecture Creating an Incandescent World. The Astronomical Journal, 2024; 167 (5): 239 DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/ad3820

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