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Beyond Earthly Skies

Super-Earth in a Polar Orbit

7 Jul 2014, 22:00 UTC
Super-Earth in a Polar Orbit Ron Miller
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Figure 1: Artist’s depiction of “sunrise” on 55 Cancri e. Image credit: Ron Miller.55 Cancri e is a transiting exoplanet orbiting the Sun-like star 55 Cancri A. The suffix “e” indicates 55 Cancri e is the 4th planet discovered around the star. 55 Cancri e has 8 times the mass and twice the radius of Earth, placing it in the super-Earth-mass regime. The planet circles its host star in an unusually close-in orbit, racing around once every 17 hours 41 minutes, at an average star-planet separation distance of only 2.3 million km. 55 Cancri e is so near to its host star that its dayside is incinerated to a temperature of well over 2000 K, hot enough to melt most metals.Spectroscopic observations using the HARPS-N spectrograph were conducted during the transit of 55 Cancri e across its host star. The observations allow the angle between the spins of the planet’s orbit and the star’s rotation, also known as the sky-projected obliquity, to be measured via the Rossiter-McLaughlin (RM) effect. Basically, the RM effect is a spectroscopic phenomenon that can be observed when a planet passes in front of its host star. As a star rotates on its axis, one half ...

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