About the Object

Super-Earth exoplanet 55 Cancri e (artist’s concept)

This artist’s concept shows what the exoplanet 55 Cancri e could look like.

Also called Janssen, 55 Cancri e is a so-called super-Earth, a rocky planet significantly larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, which orbits its star at a distance of only 2.25 million kilometres (0.015 astronomical units), completing one full orbit in less than 18 hours. In comparison, Mercury is 25 times farther from the Sun than 55 Cancri e is from its star. The system, which also includes four large gas-giant planets, is located about 41 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Cancer.

Observations from Webb’s NIRCam and MIRI suggest that the planet may be surrounded by an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide (CO2) or carbon monoxide (CO). Because it is so close to its star, the planet is extremely hot and is thought to be covered in molten rock. Researchers think that the gases that make up the atmosphere could have bubbled out of the magma.

The star, 55 Cancri, is a K-type star nearly the same size and mass as the Sun, but slightly cooler and dimmer. It is just bright enough to see with the naked eye in a very dark sky. The star and planet are so close to each other that the star would appear 70 times wider in the planet’s sky than the Sun appears in our sky. In addition, because the planet is likely to be tidally locked, from any given point the star would appear fixed in the sky.

This artist’s concept is based on new data gathered by NIRCam and MIRI as well as previous observations from other ground- and space-based telescopes, including NASA’s Hubble and the now-retired Spitzer space telescopes. Webb has not captured any images of the planet.

[Image description: Illustration of a rocky exoplanet and its star. The star is in the background at the lower left and appears somewhat smaller in the sky than the planet. The planet has hints of a rocky, partly molten surface beneath the haze of a thin atmosphere.]


NASA, ESA, CSA, R. Crawford (STScI)

About the Image

Id: weic2412a
Type: Artwork
Release date: 8 May 2024, 17:00
Related releases: weic2412
Size: 4096 x 2304 px

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