Is this the place where Obi-Wan Kenobi had the high ground?
A team of astronomers has discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet that appears to be absolutely covered with volcanoes.
In fact, according to their findings, it could rival the most volcanically active celestial body in our solar system, Jupiter's moon Io.
In other words, we could be looking at the equivalent of the fictional planet of Mustafar in the "Star Wars" universe, a volcanic hellscape that serves as the backdrop for the epic showdown between Obi-Wan Kenobi and his former pupil Darth Vader in "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" — and, weirdly, the planet Vader eventually called home.
It's Over, Anakin
The team of scientists examined data from NASA's TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) and the retired Spitzer Space Telescope.
There's only a slim chance the planet dubbed LP 791-18 d, which circles a small red dwarf star in a tidally locked orbit roughly 90 light-years away, could host any liquid water.
Yet it's still within its star's habitable zone, an area where scientists say it's technically possible for liquid water to exist.
"The day side would probably be too hot for liquid water to exist on the surface," said Björn Benneke, co-author of a new paper published in the journal Nature, and an astronomy professor at the University of Montreal, in a NASA statement. "But the amount of volcanic activity we suspect occurs all over the planet could sustain an atmosphere, which may allow water to condense on the night side."
It's the third exoplanet to have been discovered in the distant star system. While NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is already planning to observe its 2.5 times bigger sister planet LP 791-18 c, the astronomers argue LP 791-18 d may be just as interesting as a target.
"A big question in astrobiology, the field that broadly studies the origins of life on Earth and beyond, is if tectonic or volcanic activity is necessary for life," said coauthor Jessie Christiansen, an exoplanet expert at NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute, in the statement.
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