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
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
You May Also Like
NOV 24, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend sea level monitoring
NOV 24, 2020
Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend sea level monitoring
Days ago, a new satellite was launched from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with the ...
DEC 23, 2020
Space & Astronomy
It's Not a Quasar, It's a Blazar
DEC 23, 2020
It's Not a Quasar, It's a Blazar
This image is an artist's concept of what a blazar might look like, by NASA. Check out actual shots of the blazar in the ...
JAN 04, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Did Intelligent Civilizations Roam Our Galaxy 5 Billion Years Ago?
JAN 04, 2021
Did Intelligent Civilizations Roam Our Galaxy 5 Billion Years Ago?
Researchers have found that there were likely many intelligent alien civilizations sprawled across our galaxy billions o ...
MAR 24, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Molecules Containing Carbon Found in Space
MAR 24, 2021
Molecules Containing Carbon Found in Space
It's thought that most carbon found in space is contained in big molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ( ...
APR 13, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Think again: does the presence of oxygen really mean life on other planets?
APR 13, 2021
Think again: does the presence of oxygen really mean life on other planets?
Does the presence of oxygen mean the existence of life? That’s a question that scientists have been debating over ...
MAY 15, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Find Liquid Water Inside Meteorite
MAY 15, 2021
Scientists Find Liquid Water Inside Meteorite
Scientists know that water is abundant in the solar system- existing in the rings of Saturn and on its moon, Enceladus. ...
Loading Comments...