Scientists Determine ‘Extreme’ So-Called ‘Lava Planet’ Rains Rocks, Is Covered in Magma Oceans

Far out in the galaxy sits a so-called “lava planet,” where it rains rocks into oceans made of magma and even supersonic winds can’t cool down the 5,000-degree temperatures.

A new study used computer simulations to predict the conditions of exoplanet K2-141b, and found those conditions to be “extreme,” including an ocean, surface and atmosphere all made of rock, according to a news release from the scientists behind the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society study.

The earth-sized planet also has supersonic winds and a magma ocean that’s 62 miles deep.

“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 who worked under the supervision of McGill University Professor Nicolas Cowan on the study, said in the release.

The scientists also determined that because the planet orbits so close to its host star, it’s gravitationally locked in place, meaning two-thirds of it faces perpetual daylight and is an estimated 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit.

The heat is enough to not only melt the many rocks on the surface, but vaporize them too, which creates a thin atmosphere in some areas.

The night side, meanwhile, experiences temperatures of -328 degrees Fahrenheit.

Just as earth has its water cycle, K2-141b has its own cycle – only there, the magma ocean currents flow to the day side of the planet and evaporate rock, which later rains back down on the night side.

“All rocky planets, including Earth, started off as molten worlds but then rapidly cooled and solidified. Lava planets give us a rare glimpse at this stage of planetary evolution,” Cowan said in the release.

Scientists now say the next step is to test if the predictions are correct.

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