Scientists Say “Hell Planet” Has Lava Oceans And Rock Rain


Scientists have recently taken note of the incredibly dangerous conditions on a planet called K2-141b.

On this planet, scientists say that there are oceans of lava, and wind that has speeds of up to a thousand miles per hour, which is fast enough to break the sound barrier. If that wasn’t bad enough, it even rains rocks on this planet.

Luckily, this planet is hundreds of light-years away, according to scientists from McGill University, York University, and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research.

Their research was published on Tuesday in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Artist’s impression of the lava planet K2-141b

According to the study, K2-141b is just one of numerous “lava planets” that have been discovered by scientists.

K2-141b is about the same size as Earth, but its surface, ocean, and atmosphere are entirely made of rock and lava.

“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,” said lead author Giang Nguyen in a press release.

Because the planet is so close to its sun, portions of the planet are constantly exposed to daylight. Meanwhile, there are some parts of the planet that never see light, because of the location of the planet and how it rotates in relation to the sun. These parts of the planet experience freezing temperatures of minus 392 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 200 degrees Celsius.

Temperatures on the planet can get higher than 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit (or 3,000 degrees Celsius) a temperature hot enough to not only melt rocks into lava, but also to vaporize them into the atmosphere, which would make the air impossible to breathe even if the planet was otherwise inhabitable.

“Our finding likely means that the atmosphere extends a little beyond the shore of the magma ocean, making it easier to spot with space telescopes,” Nicolas Cowan, a co-author of the study said in a press release.

K2-141b also has winds that reach 3,100 miles per hour (5,000 km per hour), and the lava oceans can go as deep as 86 miles (140 km), the study calculated.

The researchers say that while this is not someplace that humans will ever be able to visit, it could give us a glimpse into how our own planet was formed, and some of the factors at play in planet creation.

“It’s a planet that doesn’t make much sense at all. There’s nothing like it in our solar system,” Cowan said.

“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,” He added.

The scientists say that the next step will be to test if their assumptions about the planet are correct.

The team now has data from the Spitzer Space Telescope that should give them a first glimpse at the day-side and night-side temperatures of the exoplanet. With the James Webb Space Telescope launching in 2021, they will also be able to verify whether the atmosphere behaves as predicted.

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