Lava Ocean Worlds May Have Reflective Metallic Atmospheres
Lava Ocean Worlds May Have Reflective Metallic Atmospheres

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — Hot super-Earths are fiery rocky planets orbiting so close to their suns that their surface is heated to lava oceans, and some of those lava worlds — which are roughly Earth-sized — are also extraordinarily bright.

According to new research in The Astrophysical Journal, hot super-Earths circle their host stars in 10 days or less, and they reflect 40 percent to 50 percent of their stars' light.

In contrast, Earth reflects only about 10 percent of the Sun's light.

The researchers melted basalt and feldspar at laboratory conditions and then took spectrometer measurements of how much light the substances gave off.

The results suggest that lava accounts for only 10 percent of a hot super-Earth's light.

The researchers speculate that lava-ocean planets do not owe their brightness to molten lava or cooled glass as formerly assumed.

Instead, the scientists speculate that their brilliance may have originated from metal-rich atmospheres and reflective clouds.

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