"Artist's Impression of KELT-9b orbiting KELT-9" by NASA / Public Domain

The hottest exoplanet’s atmosphere is melting before our eyes

Jan 28, 2020

By Brandon Specktor

When planning your next interstellar vacation, avoid planet KELT-9b. This hot Jupiter (so named because it is roughly three times the size of that planet and extremely hot) orbits its sun so closely that a year there lasts just one-and-a-half Earth days. Not only will your trip be over in a flash, but it will also kill you — with a surface temperature of 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (4,300 degrees Celsius), KELT-9b is hotter than any other exoplanet, as well as some stars.

Astronomers discovered this supremely sweltering world orbiting a star some 670 light-years from Earth in 2017, and are still learning fun new details about just how inhabitable it is. For example, KELT-9b is so hot that its atmosphere seems to be constantly melting on one side, a new study suggests.

In the study, published Jan. 7 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, researchers watched KELT-9b through NASA’s Spitzer space telescope, which observes space in infrared light. This allowed the team to record subtle variations in the planet’s heat as it whizzed around its home star.

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