Uh-oh! Scientists have figured out how to vaporize the Earth

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

It may be the stuff of Star Trek and Stargate SG-1, but scientists think they've figured out how to vaporize a planet. Earth, you'd better watch out.

Researchers from St. Louis have published some findings in The Astrophysical Journal, where they have constructed some model Super-Earths, which they used to test out atmospheric conditions.

No, the team of Bruce Fegley, Katharina Lodders and Laura Schaefer weren't trying to figure out how to blow up the planet. They were actually trying to figure out what type of atmosphere a Super-Earth might have, to help astronomers find them in the great black yonder.

But, after they started plugging in potential surface temperatures, they noticed planets tend to vaporize once they reached about 1,700 degrees Celsius. Get much higher than that, and you wouldn't just vaporize the Earth's crust and mantle—you'd take out the entire planet:

"The vapor pressure of the liquid rock increases as you heat it, just as the vapor pressure of water increases as you bring a pot to boil. Ultimately this puts all the constituents of the rock into the atmosphere," Fegley said. "You're left with a big ball of steaming gas that's knocking you on the head with pebbles and droplets of liquid iron. But we didn't put that into the paper because the exoplanets the astronomers are finding are only partially vaporized."

Be afraid, Earthlings. Be very afraid.

(Via Discovery)