This hostile exoplanet has iron clouds and rain gems

For the first time, astronomers have observed the night side of an exoplanet and its atmosphere in spectroscopic detail, revealing some hellish scenarios such as clouds made of iron and showers of gemstones on the steaming gas giant floating far away in the sky. spaceWASP-121b was first spotted in 2015 and proved to be an interesting discovery early on. With a period of revolution of just about 30 hours around its parent star, it has one of the shortest planetary orbits astronomers have detected so far.

Another interesting fact about WASP-121b is that it is tidally locked, meaning that one side of the planet is permanently facing its star while the other side remains in perpetual darkness. As a result, the dayside goes to scorching heat extremes if the star is close. Take, for example, the tidally locked exoplanet WASP-76b, which is hot enough to vaporize iron on the dayside and rain down on them. the night side.

The last exoplanet to show its hellish colors is WASP-121b, located about 850 light-years from Earth. An MIT team measured temperature changes between the day and night sides of the planet and observed the movement of water vapors for the first time. Nature Astronomy Things are a little too intense on the night side. A searing temperature of about 3,000 Kelvin rips apart the atoms that make up water and hurls them with winds at speeds in excess of 11,000 miles per hour. However, water-forming atoms aren’t the only thing moving with the winds.

Even on the cooler night side of WASP-121 b, MIT experts detected traces of iron and corundum in the clouds. gemstones such as ruby ​​and sapphire. Winds carry vaporized metals from the planet’s scorching day to the night side, where they condense to form clouds, possibly paving the way for rains to throw gems onto its toasted surface. The possibility of clouds containing iron, titanium and corundum arrived when the team fed the temperature map data through various models to study the presence of different chemicals.

To give you an idea of ​​how mild things can get on WASP-121b, the team estimates that the temperature on the dayside reaches around 2,500 Kelvin in the innermost layer of its atmosphere, while the outer layer can reach 3,500 Kelvin. Kelvin. On the night side, the atmospheric temperature varies between 1,500 and 1,800 Kelvin, depending on the depth. However, there is something even more exciting going on here. On the day side, the temperature increases with altitude, while the opposite happens on the night side, a phenomenon scientists call a Weather Inversion. As for winds that gust at a speed of about five kilometers per second, scientists think they can transport clouds across the planet in just about 20 hours. The feat is impressive, as the desiccated exoplanet is a Jupiter-sized gas giant. The team is now pinning its hopes on the James Webb Space Telescope to observe the presence of carbon-based chemicals on the exoplanet.

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