Scientists have recently found an exoplanet where it rains down rocks and lava fills the oceans, appropriately calling it a “planet from hell.” Winds reach supersonic speeds and temperatures can exceed 5400 degrees Fahrenheit. It is so hot there that the rocks not only melt, but vaporize, creating a thin and inhospitable atmosphere. Because it orbits so close to its host star, planet K2-141b remains fiery hot at all times.
“Our finding probably means that the atmosphere extends a bit beyond the shoreline of the magma ocean, making it easier to detect with space telescopes,” said co-author Nicolas Cowan.
The strange planet of Hell is about 210 light-years distant from Earth, and its host star is slightly smaller than our Sun. Astronomers have said they have discovered few exoplanets as extreme as this one. Their findings have been published in Monthly Notices from the Royal Astronomical Society. Scientists from McGill University, York University and the Indian Institute of Science Education contributed to the investigation of this infernal planet.
The conditions of the lava planet
The lava planet is about the size of Earth, but the weather patterns and atmosphere are very different. The exoplanet’s atmosphere, surface, and oceans consist of only one ingredient: rocks. The winds on the planet can reach more than 5000 km / hr, and the oceans of lava have a depth of more than 100 km. Computer simulations by scientists predict continuous extreme weather, which could permanently change the planet’s atmosphere to lava.
“The study is the first to make predictions about weather conditions on K2-141b that can be detected hundreds of light years away with next-generation telescopes like the James Webb. Space Telescope, ”said lead author Giang Nguyen in a Press release.
Since the planet’s orbits are so close to its host star, it completes one revolution in just six to seven hours. In comparison, the closest planet to our Sun, Mercury, takes about 87 days to complete one orbit.
When the researchers looked at the illumination pattern of K2-141b, they found that the sun never sets on two-thirds of the planet. Because it rotates so close to its host star, the gravitational pull gives one side of the planet perpetual sunlight. This also explains the scorching temperatures of the planet. On the dark side of the planet, temperatures can reach a chilling 328 degrees Fahrenheit.
What does lava create?
Due to the scorching temperatures on the sunny side, the rock vaporizes, forming precipitation. Water evaporates, enters the atmosphere, condenses, and returns as rain in the Earth’s water cycle. On the planet of hell, sodium, silicon monoxide, and silicon dioxide in rocks also go through this process.
On Earth, rainwater returns to the oceans, repeating the water cycle. But in the lava planet, rock vapor is blown to the dark side by supersonic winds. Rocks fall back into magma oceans and currents flow back to the sunny side. There, the cycle repeats itself and the rocks evaporate once more.
However, scientists say that the “rock cycle” of planet hell does not have the same stability as Earth. Magma ocean currents move slowly, and because of this, scientists predict a change in mineral composition over time. This will cause alterations in the surface and atmosphere of the planet.
“All rocky planets, including Earth, started out as molten worlds but then quickly cooled and solidified. The lava planets give us a rare glimpse into this stage of planetary evolution, ”says Professor Cowan from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Scientists will test these predictions in their next phase of research. The team obtained data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, which should give them an idea of the exoplanet’s day and night temperatures. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2021 will help you greatly to verify your predictions.
Other terribly hot exoplanets discovered.
Similar exoplanets have recently been discovered, such as WASP-76b, located about 640 light years from Earth. While it may not have oceans of lava, it has a strange characteristic: it rains liquid iron. Temperatures here can exceed 4,350 degrees Fahrenheit, which can easily vaporize metals.
Researchers first discovered this planet using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the European Southern Observatory (ESO). It also orbits close to its host star, causing one side to remain in perpetual sunlight. While that side looks like hell, the other side remains constantly dark and cool. Strong winds on this planet blow vaporized iron to the dark side, causing the iron to condense into droplets, forming rain.
On the hot side, the planet receives thousands of times more radiation from its host star than Earth receives from the Sun. This intense heat creates strong winds that carry iron vapor from one side to the other. There, temperatures drop to about 1,500 degrees Celsius, still incredibly hot.
“You could say that this planet rains at night, except that it rains iron,” said David Ehrenreich, a professor at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, in a Press release. Ehrenreich led the study on WASP-76b, which was published in the journal Nature. Located in the constellation Pisces, it is a gas giant like Jupiter and Saturn in our solar system.
Using the new ESPRESSO instrument on ESO’s VLT in the Chilean Atacama desert, astronomers observed chemical differences between day and night for the first time on a Jupiter-like planet. They found that a large amount of iron vapor separates the planet into two sides. Astronomers from Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and ESO made these observations in September 2018.
The team will continue to use the spectrograph to locate other Earth-like planets and exoplanets with extreme atmospheres. “What we have now is a completely new way of tracking climate of the most extreme exoplanetsEhrenreich said.