(CNN) – On this sizzling exoplanet hundreds of light years from Earth, iron raindrops fall from the night sky.
Now, researchers have also detected ionized sodium and calcium in the planet’s atmosphere, based on observations from the Gemini North Telescope, located near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
The new findings indicate that the planet, called WASP-76b, is much hotter than scientists expected.
The research is part of a project led by Cornell University called ExoGemS, ExoGemS, or Exoplanets with Gemini Spectroscopy. The project brings together scientists who study atmospheric diversity on exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.
The results were published on September 28 in Astrophysical Journal Letters It was presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.
“As we feel from a distance dozens of exoplanets, spanning a range of masses and temperatures, we will develop a more complete picture of the true diversity of extraterrestrial worlds, from those planets hot enough to host iron rain to other planets with milder climates, from Those heavier than Jupiter to others aren’t much larger than Earth,” Ray Jayawardana, co-author of the study and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of astronomy at Cornell University said in a statement.
“It is remarkable that with modern telescopes and instruments we can already learn a lot about the atmosphere – its components, physical properties, presence of clouds and even large-scale wind patterns – of planets orbiting stars hundreds of miles away. Light is years away,” Jayawardhana said.
Discovered in 2016, the super-hot planet, about the size of Jupiter, orbits a star in the constellation Pisces 640 light-years from Earth. Due to its proximity to the star, WASP-76b completes one orbit around it every 1.8 Earth days and absorbs thousands of times the radiation that Earth receives from the Sun.
“We’re seeing a lot of calcium (in the atmosphere of WASP-76b); it’s a really powerful advantage,” study co-author Emily Diebert and a doctoral student at the University of Toronto said in a statement. “This spectroscopic signature of ionized calcium could indicate that an exoplanet has very strong winds in the upper atmosphere. Or that the temperature of the atmosphere on an exoplanet is much higher than we think.”
The planet is closed by tides, which means that the same side of the planet is always facing the star. This is similar to how our moon orbits the Earth. On the so-called day side of the planet, which faces the star, temperatures exceed 2426 degrees Celsius.
The igneous temperatures of the day, which are hot enough to turn molecules into atoms and metal into steam, generate iron steam. Fast winds carry this night side, with relatively cooler temperatures hovering around 1,315 degrees Celsius.
Iron vapor condenses in clouds, causing a shower of liquid iron, and this produces the iron that is observed in the atmosphere.
The ExoGemS survey, which will eventually study about 30 exoplanets, is led by Jake Turner, a Carl Sagan Fellow in NASA’s Hubble Fellowship Program and a research fellow in the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University.
“Our work and that of other researchers is paving the way for exploring the atmospheres of terrestrial worlds outside our solar system,” Turner said.
Understanding the chemistry of an exoplanet’s atmosphere will help astronomers understand weather, climate, and the environment.
According to a previous study on this planet, extremely hot gas giant exoplanets such as WASP-76b, “which have daytime temperatures commensurate with the surface of cool stars, are an emerging class of exoplanets.”
Previous examples of these extremely hot exoplanets include KELT-9b, WASP-121b, and WASP-12b. Other types of rain unusual on other planets have been suggested, such as the sinister winds of HD 189733 b that send glass-like silicate rain sideways around the planet and even diamond rain on Neptune.
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