The most “hellish” planet that’s ever been found is believed to rain rocks, has very deep lava seas, and extreme wind speeds.
The planet, which is called K2-141b, is located approximately 200 light-years away from us and was first detected by the Kepler Space Telescope in 2018. Now researchers from McGill and York Universities have predicted the weather conditions and they are extremely hellish to say the least.
K2-141b is considered a “super Earth” and is about five times larger than our planet. It orbits its host star in an exceptionally short amount of time of just 0.3 Earth days. It is located just 665,000 miles from its host star. For comparison, the closest planet to our sun is Mercury and it takes 88 days to complete a full orbit at an average distance of around 36 million miles with a surface temperature that can reach as high as 840 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the study, the rocky K2-141b planet has 60-mile deep lava seas, over 3,000 miles per hour wind speeds, and surface temperatures reaching more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is tidally locked which means that only one side of the planet faces its star at all times. Actually, it is so hot on the dayside that it can vaporize rock. However, temperatures on the night side are completely opposite at -328 degrees Fahrenheit which is cold enough to freeze nitrogen. The extreme change in temperatures is the reason why the wind speeds are at a whopping 3,000 mph. (An artist’s impression of the planet can be seen here.)
Giang Nguyen, who is the lead author of the study, stated that the entire planet is made up of rocks, from its surface, to the ocean, and even the rain. The sodium, silicon monoxide, and silicon dioxide evaporates, rises up into the atmosphere, becomes condensed, and comes back down into the magma ocean as “rain” even though there are rocks falling from the sky. They were able to predict the weather by conducting several computer simulations.
Professor Nicolas Cowan from McGill University and who is a co-author of the study, 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.”
Now they have to wait and see whether or not their predictions are correct and they’re hoping that the data collected from the Spitzer Space Telescope and the upcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will give them more information regarding the planet’s extreme weather conditions.
Their study was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and can be read in full here.