GJ 367 b provides a way for scientists to study the formation of worlds closer to the stars. The main theory behind how a place like Mercury formed is that early in the history of the solar system, a rocky Earth-like planet formed near the sun. Then huge space rocks struck this entity, stripping the world of its shell and mantle. this means Mercury is basically a giant planetary core Sit by the fiery sun.
But Dr. Valencia said the problem with such a scenario is that it doesn’t fully function. The collisions may have destroyed the outer layers of primordial Mercury, but the material wouldn’t go very far. Rocks and minerals trapped by the Sun’s gravity will remain in a close orbit and eventually find their way to the surface of the object.
It’s possible to invoke special circumstances for why this doesn’t happen, Dr. Valencia said, but the presence of GJ 367 b and similar things means such planets aren’t exactly rare.
“We need to think about how to reliably and uninterruptedly produce super Mercury,” she added.
One possibility is that there is still something missing from the planetary creation models. Dr. Valencia said dense elements such as iron may have approached the star in its youth. For now, she added, this idea is still speculative, although worlds like GJ 367b could begin to push scientists in such a direction.
The team that has already discovered the small planet is planning further observations of the system. They would also like to use a giant telescope to pick up the light from GJ 367b, and potentially find out if it has an atmosphere or if its surface is really molten.
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