Scientists discover "bizarre hell planet" where it rains rocks into lava oceans

In a bit of editorializing, CBS News reports that scientists from McGill University, York University, and the Indian Institute of Science Education have published a new paper about a recently-discovered "bizarre, hellish exoplanet," currently known as K2-141b.

As a press release from McGill explains:

The atmosphere and weather cycle of at least one such exoplanet is even stranger, featuring the evaporation and precipitation of rocks, supersonic winds that rage over 5000 km/hr, and a magma ocean 100 km deep.


About two-thirds of K2-141b faces perpetual daylight – rather than the illuminated hemisphere we are used to on Earth. K2-141b belongs to a subset of rocky planets that orbit very close to their star. This proximity keeps the exoplanet gravitationally locked in place, meaning the same side always faces the star.

The night side experiences frigid temperatures of below -200 C. The day side of the exoplanet, at an estimated 3000 C, is hot enough to not only melt rocks but vaporize them as well, ultimately creating a thin atmosphere in some areas.


Remarkably, the rock vapour atmosphere created by the extreme heat undergoes precipitation. Just like the water cycle on Earth, where water evaporates, rises into the atmosphere, condenses, and falls back as rain, so too does the sodium, silicon monoxide, and silicon dioxide on K2-141b. On Earth, rain flows back into the oceans, where it will once more evaporate and the water cycle is repeated. On K2-141b, the mineral vapour formed by evaporated rock is swept to the frigid night side by supersonic winds and rocks "rain" back down into a magma ocean. The resulting currents flow back to the hot day side of the exoplanet, where rock evaporates once more.

Sounds like a pleasant place to vacation away from 2020.

Scientists discover bizarre hell planet where it rains rocks and oceans are made of lava [Sophie Lewis / CBS News]

Supersonic winds, rocky rains forecasted on lava planet [McGill University]

Modelling the atmosphere of lava planet K2-141b: implications for low- and high-resolution spectroscopy [T Giang Nguyen, Nicolas B Cowan, Agnibha Banerjee, and John E Moores / Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society]

Image via YouTube