Super Earths that seem to have oceans may actually be covered in magma

Super Earths that seem to have oceans may actually be covered in magma

An illustration of exoplanet K2-18b based on scientific observations

NASA, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)

A type of planet thought to be capable of supporting life may actually be covered in hot magma. The chemical properties of these so-called hycean exoplanets – which were previously thought to host liquid water oceans – may instead indicate magma seas.

Oliver Shorttle at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues came to this conclusion using observations from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) of the exoplanet K2-18b. This world is archetypically hycean – a name given to planets with a hydrogen-rich atmosphere above a liquid ocean. These planets also tend to be between the size of Earth and Neptune, with chemistry in their atmospheres that suggests liquid water exists on the surface – making them prime targets in the hunt for life beyond Earth.

However, recent models of K2-18b’s climate indicate that it may be hotter than previously thought, sweltering enough that any water oceans might have boiled away long ago. “The ground is kind of moving beneath our feet, from a theoretical perspective, as to the conditions on this planet,” says Shorttle.

The researchers investigated how it might affect the planet’s atmospheric chemistry if these oceans were made of magma rather than water, which might be consistent with the hotter predicted temperatures. They found that this matched the JWST observations just as well as water oceans.

“These two radically different regimes look very similar,” says Shorttle. “It makes the detection of habitable conditions on a super Earth or sub-Neptune-sized planet more complicated than we might have hoped.”

This means that we probably need more detailed data to tell the difference between a potentially habitable world with water oceans and a broiling, inhospitable magma world. For K2-18b, Shorttle says the question should be resolved by additional JWST observations in the coming years. And when it comes to other hycean worlds, we may have to develop new ideas of how to search for liquid water.


Disasters Expo USA, is proud to be supported by Inergency for their next upcoming edition on March 6th & 7th 2024!

The leading event mitigating the world’s most costly disasters is returning to the Miami Beach

Convention Center and we want you to join us at the industry’s central platform for emergency management professionals.
Disasters Expo USA is proud to provide a central platform for the industry to connect and
engage with the industry’s leading professionals to better prepare, protect, prevent, respond
and recover from the disasters of today.
Hosting a dedicated platform for the convergence of disaster risk reduction, the keynote line up for Disasters Expo USA 2024 will provide an insight into successful case studies and
programs to accurately prepare for disasters. Featuring sessions from the likes of The Federal Emergency Management Agency,
NASA, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, TSA and several more this event is certainly providing you with the knowledge
required to prepare, respond and recover to disasters.
With over 50 hours worth of unmissable content, exciting new features such as their Disaster
Resilience Roundtable, Emergency Response Live, an Immersive Hurricane Simulation and
much more over just two days, you are guaranteed to gain an all-encompassing insight into
the industry to tackle the challenges of disasters.
By uniting global disaster risk management experts, well experienced emergency
responders and the leading innovators from the world, the event is the hub of the solutions
that provide attendees with tools that they can use to protect the communities and mitigate
the damage from disasters.
Tickets for the event are $119, but we have been given the promo code: HUGI100 that will
enable you to attend the event for FREE!

So don’t miss out and register today:

And in case you missed it, here is our ultimate road trip playlist is the perfect mix of podcasts, and hidden gems that will keep you energized for the entire journey


This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More