Lava red alien planet found by NASA Spitzer Space Telescope

Planet UCF 1.01, is an “exoplanet” orbiting a red dwarf star called GJ 436, about two-thirds the size of Earth and only 33 light years distant. It appears as if it is covered in molten lava.

“Cosmically speaking, that’s right around the corner,” said discoverer Kevin Stevenson, though that works out to 194 trillion miles.

Exoplanets circle stars beyond our Sun, but only a handful smaller than Earth have been discovered, according to NASA. UCF 1.01 is about 5,200 miles in diameter, slightly bigger than Mars, smaller than Venus.

It’s so close to its star – GJ 436 is about half the size of our Sun – that it revolves about it when every 1.4 days (about 33 1/2 hours.) It’s so hot – at least 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit – that it has no atmosphere and may have a molten surface.

The news is expected to generate international buzz among astronomers and physicists, both simply because of the way Stevenson and his colleagues discovered it, and since of exactly where they had been seeking when they did, said Michael Werner, project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

He and other scientists at UCF’s Planetary Sciences Group were utilizing the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, an infrared space telescope launched into orbit about the sun from Cape Canaveral in August 2003. That telescope was designed and is employed mostly to study planets and other space objects that already have been discovered, or to look into deep, deep space.

UCF 1.01 is the first planet actually discovered by Spitzer.

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