GJ 367b: A dense, ultrashort-period sub-Earth planet transiting a nearby red dwarf star

A nearby iron-rich sub-Earth planet

The mass and radius of an exoplanet determine its mean density, which provides information about the possible interior structure. Lam et al. have identified a planet on a 7.7-hour orbit around a nearby red dwarf star. The authors determined the planet’s radius from the transit, then used radial velocity observations to measure the mass. They found a sub-Earth–sized planet with a density almost equivalent to pure iron. Its high surface temperature is close to the vaporization point of iron, suggesting that it is the iron core of a planet that has lost its outer mantle. —KTS

Abstract : Ultrashort-period (USP) exoplanets have orbital periods shorter than 1 day. Precise masses and radii of USP exoplanets could provide constraints on their unknown formation and evolution processes. We report the detection and characterization of the USP planet GJ 367b using high-precision photometry and radial velocity observations. GJ 367b orbits a bright (V-band magnitude of 10.2), nearby, and red (M-type) dwarf star every 7.7 hours. GJ 367b has a radius of 0.718 ± 0.054 Earth-radii and a mass of 0.546 ± 0.078 Earth-masses, making it a sub-Earth planet. The corresponding bulk density is 8.106 ± 2.165 grams per cubic centimeter—close to that of iron. An interior structure model predicts that the planet has an iron core radius fraction of 86 ± 5%, similar to that of Mercury’s interior.