Photo credit: Julie Roussy, McGill Graphic Design and Getty Images
Scientists have discovered K2-141b, an exoplanet that is half the size of Earth but orbits so close to its star that two-thirds of the surface is permanently sunlit. This means that almost half of the planet is molten magma, thus the atmosphere created by vaporized rocks spreads around the planet, forming clouds and rains or snows down onto the molten surface below. When that is paired with wind speeds above 3,100 miles per hour, or faster than the speed of sound on Earth, things get a bit strange. Read more for a video and additional information.
On a somewhat brighter note, these supersonic winds only dominate one side of the planet, with the other being entirely calm. By studying this lava planet scientists will be able to better understand a version of the conditions that existed on Earth during its formation, when it covered in molten lava billions of years ago.
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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,” said Nicolas Cowan, a planetary scientist at McGill University in Canada and a coauthor on the new paper.