Among the most extreme planets discovered outside of our solar system are lava planets: fiery hot worlds orbiting their host star so close that some regions may be oceans. molten lava. According to scientists from McGill University, York University and the Indian Institute of Science Education, the atmosphere and weather cycles of at least one such alien planet are even bizarre, characterized by the evaporation and precipitation of rocks, ultrasonic winds have speeds above 5000 km / h, and the ocean of magma is 100 km deep.
In a study published in Royal Astronomical Society monthly announcementScientists use computer simulation to predict conditions on K2-141b, an Earth-sized exoplanet whose surface, ocean, and atmosphere are all made up of the same composition: rocks . The extreme weather forecasted by their analysis could permanently change the surface and atmosphere of K2-141b over time.
“This study is the first to predict weather conditions on K2-141b that can be detected hundreds of light years away using next-generation telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope. “, Said Dr. Giang Nguyen, the main author. . student at York University, who worked under the supervision of Professor Nicolas Cowan of McGill University in the study.
Two-thirds of exoplanets face endless daylight
When analyzing the exoplanet’s illumination patterns, the team found that about two-thirds of the K2-141b had to face permanent daylight – not the illuminated hemisphere as we are familiar. on the earth. K2-141b belongs to a subset of rocky planets orbiting very close to their star. This closeness keeps the exoplanet locked in place, meaning that the same side is always facing the star.
The night side withstands freezing temperatures below -200 degrees Celsius. The daytime side of the exoplanets, estimated at around 3000 degrees Celsius, is hot enough to not only melt the rocks, but also evaporate them, eventually creating an Thin atmosphere in some areas. Nicolas Cowan, professor at the Department of Earth & Planets at McGill University, said: “Our discovery may mean the atmosphere extends a little off the magma coast, making it easier to spot. with a space telescope.
It’s like the Earth’s water cycle, only with rocks
Notably, a rocky vapor atmosphere created by extremely high temperatures will produce a precipitate. Like the water cycle on Earth, where water evaporates, rises to the atmosphere, condenses and falls back as rain, sodium, silicon monoxide and silicon dioxide on K2-141b are also. On Earth, rain flows back into the oceans, where it once again evaporates and the water cycle is repeated. On K2-141b, mineral vapor formed by evaporated rock is swept by ultrasonic winds at night and “rain” rocks back to the magma ocean. The resulting currents flow back to the hot day side of the exoplanet, where the rock evaporates again.
Scientists say that the cycle on K2-141b is not as stable as the one on Earth. The return flow of the magma ocean towards the daytime is very slow, and as a result they predict that the mineral composition will change with time – ultimately changing the surface and atmosphere of K2-141b.
Professor Cowan of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences said: “All rocky planets, including Earth, started out as a molten world but then quickly cooled down and solidified. lava crystals give us a rare glimpse of this planet’s evolutionary phase.
The next step will be to test whether these predictions are correct, scientists say. The team now has data from the Spitzer Space Telescope that will give them their first glimpse of the day and night temperatures of the exoplanet. With the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2021, they will also be able to verify if the atmosphere is working as predicted.
Astronomers see unexpected molecules in the exoplanet atmosphere
“Modeling of the lava planet’s atmosphere K2-141b: implications for low and high resolution spectra” Royal Astronomical Society monthly announcement (Year 2020). DOI: 10.1093 / mnras / staa2487
Provided by McGill University
Quote: Ultrasonic winds, hail forecasted on the lava planet (2020, November 3) retrieved November 4, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-11-supersonic-rocky -lava-planet.html
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