Earth-sized planet discovered in ‘our solar backyard’ | Science & Technology

A team of astronomers has discovered a planet closer and younger than any other Earth-sized world yet identified. It’s a remarkably hot world whose proximity to our own planet and to a star like our sun mark it as a unique opportunity to study how planets evolve.

The new planet was described in a new study published this week by The Astronomical Journal. Melinda Soares-Furtado, a NASA Hubble Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who will begin work as an astronomy professor at the university in the fall, and recent UW-Madison graduate Benjamin Capistrant, now a graduate student at the University of Florida, co-led the study with co-authors from around the world.

“It’s a useful planet because it may be like an early Earth,” says Soares-Furtado.

Here is what scientists know about the planet:

  • The planet is known as HD 63433d and it’s the third planet found in orbit around a star called HD 63433.
  • HD 63433d is so close to its star, it completes a trip all the way around every 4.2 days.
  • “Even though it’s really close-orbiting, we can use follow-up data to search for evidence of outgassing and atmospheric loss that could be important constraints on how terrestrial worlds evolve,” Soares-Furtado says. “But that’s where the similarities end — and end dramatically.”
  • Based on its orbit, the astronomers are relatively certain HD 63433d is tidally locked, which means one side is perpetually facing its star.
  • That side can reach a brutal 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit and may flow with lava, while the opposite side is forever dark.

What you should know about the planet’s star:

  • HD 63433 is roughly the same size and star type as our sun, but (at about 400 million years old) it’s not even one-tenth our sun’s age.
  • The star is about 73 light years away from our own sun and part of the group of stars moving together that make up the constellation Ursa Major, which includes the Big Dipper.
  • “On a dark night in Madison,” Soares-Furtado says, “you could see [HD…

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