The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, revealed on Monday the discovery of an exoplanet resembling Mercury. The new finding made by the NASA Kepler Space Telescope will help to investigate the origin and evolution of Mercury, specialists say, since it is the first time that astronomers find another world that resembles the Mercury planet, the most unknown planet in our Solar System.
K2-229 b Mercury-like exoplanet is made of iron and nickel
The new exoplanet, which has been named K2-229 b, is, in fact, a bigger version of Mercury as it is four times bigger and five times hotter, explained the US space agency.
The exoplanet orbits a star like our Sun, however, the diurnal side of the planet can reach temperatures so high that they can vaporize rocks – about 2,000 degrees Celsius.
K2-229 b is mainly composed of heavy elements, such as iron and nickel, which can survive near the heat of a star.
Unlike Earth, which has only 35 percent iron, K2-229 b, whose name comes from the mission that found it, has 70 percent iron, exactly like Mercury.
The Mercury-like exoplanet can help scientists learn more about Mercury and rocky planets formation
Earth, Venus, Mars, and some exoplanets have a mass composed of approximately 30% metallic core and 70% silicate mantle. On the other hand, the composition of Mercury, located on the inner border of the Solar System, is exactly the opposite.
Astronomers believe that the new discovery can help explain what happened to Mercury and how the rocky planets in the Solar System were formed.
K2-229b is so close to its star that it is possible that the extreme radiation evaporated the mantle, its outermost part, and an atmosphere of silicate vapors formed, according to the astronomers.
Besides, some of this material could have been lost in space, which would explain the unique composition of the planet. An alternative explanation would be the impact with large asteroids, analogous to what happened to the Earth when the Moon was formed.
In conclusion, NASA has just revealed the discovery made by Kepler Space Telescope of an exoplanet similar to Mercuri.