Planet Vulcan: Toxic Oasis

Check out this animation from the Kepler space telescope portraying a dramatic planetary discovery. Kepler-10b, it’s called, orbits its sun at a distance more than 20 times closer than Mercury is to our Sun. The daytime temperature is more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Intense radiation from the star has stripped it of any atmosphere.

Instead, the planet’s molten surface throws off a strange kind of haze… flecks of silicates and iron swept away by stellar radiation, much like a comet’s tail when its orbit brings it close to the Sun.

Call this hot world Vulcan… after the Roman god of fire. We can only imagine what it’s like down on the surface. The gravitational twisting and tugging from the parent star have likely endowed its rocky surface with lakes and rivers of lava.

It’s not a place for us ever to visit. Rather, this toxic oasis is merely another point on a grand map, whose roads are light beams crisscrossing the galaxy.

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