A map of the large day–night temperature gradient of a super-Earth exoplanet
Nature 532, 7598 (2016). doi:10.1038/nature17169
Authors: Brice-Olivier Demory, Michael Gillon, Julien de Wit, Nikku Madhusudhan, Emeline Bolmont, Kevin Heng, Tiffany Kataria, Nikole Lewis, Renyu Hu, Jessica Krick, Vlada Stamenković, Björn Benneke, Stephen Kane & Didier Queloz
Over the past decade, observations of giant exoplanets (Jupiter-size) have provided key insights into their atmospheres, but the properties of lower-mass exoplanets (sub-Neptune) remain largely unconstrained because of the challenges of observing small planets. Numerous efforts to observe the spectra of super-Earths—exoplanets with masses of one to ten times that of Earth—have so far revealed only featureless spectra. Here we report a longitudinal thermal brightness map of the nearby transiting super-Earth 55 Cancri e (refs 4, 5) revealing highly asymmetric dayside thermal emission and a strong day–night temperature contrast. Dedicated space-based monitoring of the planet in the infrared revealed a modulation of the thermal flux as 55 Cancri e revolves around its star in a tidally locked configuration. These observations reveal a hot spot that is located 41 ± 12 degrees east of the substellar point (the point at which incident light from the star is perpendicular to the surface of the planet). From the orbital phase curve, we also constrain the nightside brightness temperature of the planet to 1,380 ± 400 kelvin and the temperature of the warmest hemisphere (centred on the hot spot) to be about 1,300 kelvin hotter (2,700 ± 270 kelvin) at a wavelength of 4.5 micrometres, which indicates inefficient heat redistribution from the dayside to the nightside. Our observations are consistent with either an optically thick atmosphere with heat recirculation confined to the planetary dayside, or a planet devoid of atmosphere with low-viscosity magma flows at the surface.
Rescued Japanese spacecraft delivers first results from Venus
Nature 532, 7598 (2016). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/532157a
Author: Elizabeth Gibney
Streaked acidic clouds and a bow shape in the atmosphere are among Akatsuki’s findings.
Nature 532, 7598 (2016). doi:10.1038/532148a
Findings from the Akatsuki mission should rekindle interest in Earth’s closest neighbour.
Astronomy: Black-hole disk launches jet
Nature 532, 7598 (2016). doi:10.1038/532150d
Scientists have caught one of the best glimpses yet of a jet of plasma streaming from the black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy.Intense magnetic fields around black holes are thought to launch these beams, which travel nearly at the speed of
Astrochemistry: Sugars made in simulated space
Nature 532, 7598 (2016). doi:10.1038/532151b
A key sugar found in DNA has been created in the laboratory under conditions similar to those around comets.Ribose forms the backbone of DNA and RNA, but its ancient origin remains a mystery. Cornelia Meinert and Uwe Meierhenrich of the University of Nice Sophia