NOV 07, 2020 8:00 AM PST

Scientists Discover Planet with Atmosphere of Vaporized Rock

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers have identified an exoplanet that appears to have an atmosphere composed of vaporized rock and oceans running with lava, supersonic winds, and rock glaciers. 

Astronomers originally discovered the exoplanet, known as K2-141b, in 2017. At around 1.5 times the size of Earth, it is so close to its star that it is able to complete full orbits several times per day. 

In the present study, the researchers wanted to understand the composition of K2-141's atmosphere. They thus started by examining previous studies on the exoplanet to piece together information that would allow them to calculate it. 

From one such study, for example, showing that the planet has a similar density to that of Earth, they could model the crust is pure silica. Seeing that over half of the planet's surface may be permanently sunlit, the researchers found that it may host magma oceans tens of miles of kilometers deep. 

From here, they were then able to create three models of what the planet's atmosphere would look like, based on three potential main ingredients, all common on the crusts of rocky planets. In all three cases, they found that the planet would be able to support wind speeds at above 1.1 miles per second, or faster than the speed of sound. 

They also found that, at the edges of the planet's atmosphere, where temperatures fall, gaseous rock would be able to cool enough to fall back to the surface as precipitation. Would the atmosphere be dominated by sodium, they said that solid sodium would then ooze back toward oceans as glaciers do on Earth. 

The calculations, according to the researchers, provide models that can be compared to the current observation capacities of massive telescopes. Currently pouring through data from the Spitzer Space Telescope to deduce temperatures on the planet's day and night sides, they are looking forward to NASA's launch of the James Webb Space Telescope next year to expand their analysis. 

 

Sources: Space.comOxford Academic

 

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
FEB 07, 2021
Space & Astronomy
NASA Promotes the Development of Hybrid Aircraft
FEB 07, 2021
NASA Promotes the Development of Hybrid Aircraft
Air travel is thought to be a significant contributor to emissions that lead to climate change. NASA is now launching an ...
MAR 09, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Meteorite Parked in UK Driveway May Hold Clues to Planet Formation, Early Life
MAR 09, 2021
Meteorite Parked in UK Driveway May Hold Clues to Planet Formation, Early Life
Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx have spent years trying to intercept asteroids & collect samples. This meteor made it a little ...
APR 03, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Find Strange Green Rock on Mars
APR 03, 2021
Scientists Find Strange Green Rock on Mars
NASA's Perseverance rover has found a strange, green rock on the surface of Mars that is having its science team' ...
MAY 02, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Average Day on Venus Lasts 243 Earth Days
MAY 02, 2021
Average Day on Venus Lasts 243 Earth Days
Although Venus is our planet’s closest neighbour, its fundamental properties have remained largely unknown. Now th ...
JUN 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Signatures of Life on Earth Remotely
JUN 21, 2021
Scientists Detect Signatures of Life on Earth Remotely
An international team led by researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland and the National Centre of Competenc ...
SEP 14, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
The World's Most Accurate Clock
SEP 14, 2021
The World's Most Accurate Clock
The world’s most accurate clock has taken the 2022 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Jun Ye, a physicist ...
Loading Comments...