Scientists Have Found a Strange Planet That’s Half Lava and Half Rock

It’s 41 light years away

Remember the lava planet where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker had an epic lightsaber fight in Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (aka the good prequel)? On Mustafar, the lava flowed like a river and Anakin was nearly burned to death. Well, NASA has discovered a molten planet very similar to Mustafar that’s only 41 light years away away.

55 Cancri e orbits so close to its sun that a year is only 18 hours. The planet has synchronous rotation with its sun so one side is permanently day, the other permanently night. The day side is around 2,000-degrees Fahrenheit and the cooler, night side is thought to be made of hardened lava rock. 55 Cancri e is twice the size of the Earth but is eight times more dense. Radiation and solar winds give the planet a unique attribute, it leaves a large dust cloud in its wake as it runs around its sun.

“The day side could possibly have rivers of lava and big pools of extremely hot magma, but we think the night side would have solidified lava flows like those found in Hawaii,” Michael Gillon of the University of Liège in Belgium says. Although the night side is similar to Hawaii in some facets, its intense heat makes it place in the universe that you’d probably skip as a vacation destination.

via David Leavitt / Twitter

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