An artist’s depiction of a molten exoplanet. Image credit: University of Bern/Thibaut Roger
The smaller a planet, the more difficult it is to spot — which is frustrating for scientists hoping to find Earth-like worlds.
That’s why a team of researchers set out to determine what planetary traits would make a world a little easier to identify. Their analysis suggests that molten worlds with atmospheres full of water or carbon dioxide will be more easily observed by instruments that will be available to scientists soon.
“A rocky planet that is hot, molten and possibly harbouring a large outgassed atmosphere ticks all the boxes,” Dan Bower, lead author on the new study and an astrophysicist at the University of Bern, said in a statement. “Granted, you wouldn’t want to vacation on one of these planets, but they are important to study since many if not all rocky planets begin their life as molten blobs, yet eventually some may become habitable like Earth.”
Earth grew out of its molten stage pretty quickly, but other worlds may retain a so-called magma ocean in which much of the planet’s surface is churning lava. Bower and his colleagues wanted to consider this stage of a ...