Aarhus Universitets segl

Villum grant for simulation of lava worlds

Professor Charles Lesher at SAC has received a grant of DKK 1 991 999.00 from the Villum Fonden to build a physical apparatus for simulating the conditions on superhot exoplanets.

Foto: Colourbox

This is a quote from the project proposal:

Laboratory simulation of extrasolar lava worlds

A hallmark of the Kepler and TESS missions has been the discovery of extremely hot exoplanets with broadly Earth-like compositions orbiting close to their host star. The extremely high levels of stellar radiation received by the planets assures surface temperatures exceeding those at which rocky planetary material melts. It is believed that widespread melting on these fast-orbiting exoplanets creates lava worlds similar to what we believe existed on Earth during the first half-billion years of its history. Here we propose to build and commission a novel apparatus that can simulate these hellish conditions using lasers to melt samples levitated in a jet stream. High-speed imaging is used to measure thermodynamic and rheological properties – information essential to model superhot planet dynamics and evolution. This novel tool will expand exoplanet research in Denmark, and provide much needed experimental data to interpret current, as well as exciting new observations expected from the James Webb Space Telescope.

SAC'ies Mia Sloth Lundkvist and Simon Albrecht are co-investigators on this Villum Experiments Grant.