Among the most extreme planets discovered beyond the edges of our solar system are lava planets: fiery hot worlds that circle so close to their host star that some regions are likely oceans of molten lava. According to scientists from McGill University, York University, and the Indian Institute of Science Education, 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.
In a study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the scientists use computer simulations to predict the conditions on K2-141b, an Earth-size exoplanet with a surface, ocean, and atmosphere all made up of the same ingredients: rocks. The extreme weather forecasted by their analysis could permanently change the surface and atmosphere of K2-141b over time.
“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,” says lead author Giang Nguyen, a PhD student at York University who worked under the supervision of McGill University Professor Nicolas Cowan on the study.
Two-thirds of the exoplanet faces endless daylight
In analyzing the illumination pattern of the exoplanet, the team discovered that 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. “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,” says Nicolas Cowan, a professor in the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at McGill University.
Like Earth’s water cycle, only with rocks
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.
Still, the cycle on K2-141b is not as stable as the one on Earth, say the scientists. The return flow of the magma ocean to the day side is slow, and as a result they predict that the mineral composition will change over time – eventually changing the very surface and atmosphere of K2-141b.
“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,” says Professor Cowan of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
The next step will be to test if these predictions are correct, say the scientists. 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.
About the study
“Modelling the atmosphere of lava planet K2-141b: implications for low and high resolution spectroscopy” by T. Giang Nguyen, Nicolas Cowan, Agnibha Banerjee and John Moores is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
About McGill University
Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,800 international students making up 31% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.
NOAA scientists discover new species of gelatinous animal near Puerto Rico – CTV News
Scientists have discovered a new species of ctenophore, or comb jelly, near Puerto Rico.
The newly named Duobrachium sparksae was discovered two and a half miles below sea level by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries research team. It was found during an underwater expedition using a remotely operated vehicle in 2015 and filmed by a high-definition camera.
NOAA Fisheries scientists Mike Ford and Allen Collins spotted the ctenophore and recognized it as a new species. This is the first time NOAA scientists have identified a new species using only high-definition video, according to NOAA.
“The cameras on the Deep Discoverer robot are able to get high-resolution images and measure structures less than a millimeter. We don’t have the same microscopes as we would in a lab, but the video can give us enough information to understand the morphology in detail, such as the location of their reproductive parts and other aspects,” Collins said.
The scientists also said there was another unique quality to the discovery. During the expedition, they were not able to gather any samples, so the video evidence is all they have.
“Naming of organisms is guided by international code, but some changes have allowed descriptions of new species based on video — certainly when species are rare and when collection is impossible,” Ford said. “When we made these observations, we were 4,000 metres down, using a remote vehicle, and we did not have the capabilities to take a sample.”
There are between 100 and 150 species of comb jellies, and despite their name, they are not related to jellyfish at all, according to the NOAA. The species is carnivorous, and many are highly efficient predators that eat small arthropods and many kinds of larvae.
The researchers said that there did not initially get a long look at the animal, so there is still a lot about this new species that they do not know yet. Their findings were recently published in the journal Plankton and Benthos Research.
“We’re not sure of their role in the ecosystem yet,” Ford said.
“We can consider that it serves similar roles to other ctenophores near the ocean floor and it also has some similarities to other ctenophores in open ocean areas,” he said.
The videos are now part of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Collection and publicly accessible.
You might want to stay up late: lunar eclipse to coincide with November’s Beaver full moon early Monday morning – Toronto Star
A special celestial event is set to grace Toronto skies early Monday morning.
The November full moon, which is traditionally called the Beaver moon, will coincide with a penumbral lunar eclipse.
This kind of eclipse event happens when the moon crosses Earth’s outer shadow, or penumbra, giving it a reddish brown hue.
Those in Toronto will be able to observe the phenomenon starting 2:29 a.m. ET. The eclipse will be at its peak at 4:42 a.m. ET.
Environment Canada predicts partly cloudy skies at that time, but stargazing enthusiasts may be able to get a glimpse of the moon.
Although the Canadian Space Agency notes lunar eclipses are usually among the most observable because you can see them — quite safely — with the naked eye, with the more subtle penumbral eclipse they recommend using binoculars or a small telescope for the best viewing experience.
Fourth and last lunar eclipse of 2020 to occur on Monday – Geo News
The fourth and last lunar eclipse of 2020, a penumbral eclipse, will occur on November 30 (Monday).
According to Prof Dr Javed Iqbal, of the Institute of Space and Planetary Astrophysics (ISPA), University of Karachi, the eclipse will take place at 12:32pm according to Pakistan Standard Time.
The lunar eclipse will be seen in South and North America, Australia and Asian countries and will not be seen anywhere in Pakistan.
It will reach its peak at 2:42pm, Dr Iqbal said, adding that the shadow of the eclipse will be removed from the moon at 4:53pm.
The total duration of the eclipse will last 4 hours and 21 minutes, Dr Iqbal said.
The last three lunar eclipses occurred on January 10, June 5, and July 4.
A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Earth blocks some of the sun’s light from directly reaching the moon’s surface. All or part of the moon is covered with the outer part of its shadow, also known as the penumbra.
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