Astronomers have discovered the first exoplanet with plate tectonics

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Like the volcanic planet Mustafar from Star wars, half of exoplanet 3844b could be covered with active volcanoes. This planet, discovered in 2019, could be the first world we know of, outside of the solar system, to have plate tectonics, which guides much of the geology over our own world.

On Earth, plate tectonics cause earthquakes and build mighty mountains, and it carries material below the Earth’s surface, expelling material into the crust and atmosphere. This movement of the Earth’s crustal plates also plays a crucial role in the return of these materials underground, completing the geological process.

This tectonic cycle, essential to the conduct of climatic conditions on Earth, has never been observed in a world outside our solar system – until now.

Located just 45 light years from Earth, LHS 3844b is said to have no atmosphere. This makes it a little easier for astronomers to see the tectonic processes taking place in this distant world. Even under the best conditions, these measures are state-of-the-art.

“The first mission to Mars didn’t expect to find craters and river valleys, and yet they did. The first mission to Jupiter didn’t expect to find oceanic worlds and volcanic worlds, but they did. – Alan Stern

This volcano planet, made up mostly of rocks like our own world, is slightly larger than Earth.

This world orbits so close to its star that it is locked to the tide – eternally facing one side towards its star parent, like the face on the Moon always points to Earth. For this reason, one side of LHS 3844b is constantly heated, while the other side remains perpetually frozen. While the sunny side of this world burns at temperatures of 800 degrees Celsius (1470 Fahrenheit), nighttime temperatures drop to -250 ° C (-420 ° F).

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