Since 1995, thousands of exoplanets have been discovered. beyond the edges of our solar system, among which are lava planets, considered to be the “most extreme.”

What are lava planets?

A news release published this week by McGill University, describes lava planets as “fiery hot worlds that circle so close to their host star that some regions are likely oceans of molten lava.”

The release announced findings of a new study by scientists from McGill University, York University, and the Indian Institute of Science Education, who have found the atmosphere and weather cycle of one of the newest “lava planets” to be even more bizarre – “featuring the evaporation and precipitation of rocks, supersonic winds that rage more than 3,106 miles per hour, and a magma ocean more than 62 miles deep.”

In the study, published in “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society,” the scientists used computer simulations to predict the conditions on K2-141b, “an Earth-size exoplanet with a surface, ocean, and atmosphere all made up of the same ingredients: rocks,” the release said.

“The study is the first to make predictions about weather conditions on K2-141b that can be detected from hundreds of light years away with next-generation telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope,” lead author Giang Nguyen, a PhD student at York University, said in the news release.

Most of K2-141b faces endless daylight.

Unlike the illuminated hemisphere experienced on Earth, the release said the team discovered in analyzing the illumination pattern of K2-141b that about two-thirds of the exoplanet faces perpetual daylight, due to its very close orbit to its star, which keeps the exoplanet “gravitationally locked in place,” – meaning the same side always faces the star.

What about its “night” side?

Unlike its “day” side – which at an estimated 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit, is hot enough to melt and vaporize rocks, creating a thin atmosphere in some areas – the “never-ending” night side experiences frigid temperatures of below -328 degrees Fahrenheit, the release said.

“Our finding likely means that the atmosphere extends a little beyond the shore of the magma ocean, making it easier to spot with space telescopes,” Nicolas Cowan, a professor in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at McGill University, said in the news release.

Think Earth’s water cycle – only with rocks

Just like Earth’s water cycle, where water evaporates into the atmosphere, condenses, and falls back as rain, the rock vapor atmosphere – sodium, silicon monoxide, and silicon dioxide, – created by the extreme heat on K2-141b, undergoes precipitation, the study found.

Unlike Earth, where rain flows back into the oceans, and the water cycle is repeated, the study found that on K2-141b, supersonic winds sweep the mineral vapor formed by evaporated rock, to the frigid night side “and rocks ‘rain’ back down into a magma ocean.” Those currents then flow back to the hot day side of K2-141b, repeating the cycle.

Scientists explain that K2-141b’s cycle is not as stable as the one on Earth, since the magma ocean’s return flow to the day side is slow, the release said. Scientists predict that as a result, over time the mineral composition of the exoplanet will change – “eventually changing the very surface and atmosphere of K2-141b,” also according to the McGill University release.

The next step is to verify their predictions, the scientists say. With data now available from the Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists say they should get a first glimpse at the day-side and night-side temperatures of the exoplanet. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2021, will allow them to verify whether the atmosphere behaves as they’ve predicted, the release stated.

[embedded content]

READ MORE:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Trump signs an executive order allowing mining the Moon and asteroids – Universe Today

In 2015, the Obama administration signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness…

SpaceX test-fires rocket, preps for final flight of first-generation Dragon capsule – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX test-fired a Falcon 9 rocket Sunday on pad 40 at Cape…