Liquid Iron Rain

in hive-196387 •  5 days ago 

While humanity is currently dealing with the inconvenience of the COVID-19 pandemic an old proverb says “It can always be worse”. And an exoplanet WASP-76b is evidence of this.


Image by Tommy Takacs from Pixabay

This exoplanet is about 640 light-years away from us. It is roughly two times bigger than the largest planet of our Solar system – Jupiter and about 20 times larger than Earth as it has a diameter of 266 660 kilometers

Hellish Exoplanet

While WASP-76b is a planetary giant. This is most likely because it has no chance of cooling down. Its orbit – which is around a star roughly 2 times larger than our Sun – is very close to its star.

WASP-76b is the only planet of the system and a year (a full orbit around the star) takes just 1.8 days. Another interesting fact is the fact that it has a tidally locked – this means that the same side of the planet is always facing its star – similarly to how the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth.

As you might imagine, living on such a planet would be rough. And if we face the facts, most likely it would be just impossible as the temperatures on the side facing the star the temperatures reach 2400° C. And even the part of the planet that is cool is not that much better as the temperatures there are around 1500° C.

Where Has The Iron Gone?

The exoplanet was discovered in 2013 using the Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet- and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) in Chile. This spectrograph allowed us to detect vaporized iron on the half that is facing the star but we haven't detected any on the other half.

Thus, the scientists asked themselves – where is all the iron? In the end, they concluded that the winds which can reach up to 18,000 kilometers per hour take the iron from the “day” side to the “night” side where the iron condenses and rains down onto the planet as liquid iron.

This might be the most extreme weather humanity has ever discovered.


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