Highly Volcanic Exoplanets, Lava Worlds, and Magma Ocean Worlds: An Emerging Class of Dynamic Exoplanets of Significant Scientific Priority

Wade G. Henning (Lead / Corresponding author), Joseph P. Renaud, Prabal Saxena, Patrick L. Whelley, Avi M. Mandell, Soko Matsumura, Lori S. Glaze, Terry A. Hurford, Timothy A. Livengood, Christopher W. Hamilton, Michael Efroimsky, Valeri V. Makarov, Ciprian T. Berghea, Scott D. Guzewich, Kostas Tsigaridis, Giada N. Arney, Daniel R. Cremons, Stephen R. Kane, Jacob E. Bleacher, Ravi K. KopparapuErika Kohler, Yuni Lee, Andrew Rushby, Weijia Kuang, Rory Barnes, Jacob A. Richardson, Peter Driscoll, Nicholas C. Schmerr, Anthony D. Del Genio, Ashley Gerard Davies, Lisa Kaltenegger, Linda Elkins-Tanton, Yuka Fujii, Laura Schaefer, Sukrit Ranjan, Elisa Quintana, Thomas S. Barclay, Keiko Hamano, Noah E. Petro, Jordan D. Kendall, Eric D. Lopez, Dimitar D. Sasselov

Research output: Working paper/PreprintPreprint

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Highly volcanic exoplanets, which can be variously characterized as 'lava worlds', 'magma ocean worlds', or 'super-Ios' are high priority targets for investigation. The term 'lava world' may refer to any planet with extensive surface lava lakes, while the term 'magma ocean world' refers to planets with global or hemispherical magma oceans at their surface. 'Highly volcanic planets', including super-Ios, may simply have large, or large numbers of, active explosive or extrusive volcanoes of any form. They are plausibly highly diverse, with magmatic processes across a wide range of compositions, temperatures, activity rates, volcanic eruption styles, and background gravitational force magnitudes. Worlds in all these classes are likely to be the most characterizable rocky exoplanets in the near future due to observational advantages that stem from their preferential occurrence in short orbital periods and their bright day-side flux in the infrared. Transit techniques should enable a level of characterization of these worlds analogous to hot Jupiters. Understanding processes on highly volcanic worlds is critical to interpret imminent observations. The physical states of these worlds are likely to inform not just geodynamic processes, but also planet formation, and phenomena crucial to habitability. Volcanic and magmatic activity uniquely allows chemical investigation of otherwise spectroscopically inaccessible interior compositions. These worlds will be vital to assess the degree to which planetary interior element abundances compare to their stellar hosts, and may also offer pathways to study both the very young Earth, and the very early form of many silicate planets where magma oceans and surface lava lakes are expected to be more prevalent. We suggest that highly volcanic worlds may become second only to habitable worlds in terms of both scientific and public long-term interest.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCornell University
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2018


  • astro-ph.EP
  • physics.ao-ph
  • physics.geo-ph


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