Feeds

Boffins: We are VAPORISING the Earth... for science

Supervillainesque move helps them learn about super-earths

Intelligent flash storage arrays

A group of scientists have been practising blowing the Earth into smithereens.

Planet imploding

Whooooooooomph.... BOOM!

The astroboffins, who claim they are doing it for scientific reasons, have used a computer simulation to vaporise our home planet.

"We scientists are not content just to talk about vaporising the Earth," Bruce Fegley, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University said from his secret lair. "We want to understand exactly what it would be like if it happened."

The researchers are running the simulations to see what conditions on super-earth planets in the universe are like.

Super-earths are rock worlds between the size of Earth and Neptune and because of the transit method boffins use to find them, they're often orbiting close to their fiery-hot stars.

The transit method of spotting planets watches the light of stars in the universe for the passing of their orbiting worlds and then uses that light to figure out the composition of those worlds' atmosphere.

Other techniques can also tell scientists the density of a planet, but with rocky planets, the amount of different elements that can add up to the same density makes definitive answers hard to find.

Exposing the Earth to the same heat as a rocky world close to its star, the researchers hoped to figure out what astronomers should see in the atmospheres of super-earths so they can figure out their composition.

The boffins turned up the heat on two models of Earth, one regular and one that was like the Earth before the continental crust formed. They blasted the planets with temperatures ranging from 270°C to 1,700°C, much, much higher than our planet's average 15°C.

"The vapour pressure of the liquid rock increases as you heat it, just as the vapour pressure of water increases as you bring a pot to boil," Fegley said. "Ultimately this puts all the constituents of the rock into the atmosphere."

So that's good and sciency, but what about when the Earth was completely vaporised?

"You're left with a big ball of steaming gas that's knocking you on the head with pebbles and droplets of liquid iron," he said. "But we didn't put that into the paper because the exoplanets the astronomers are finding are only partially vaporised." ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.