It’s raining iron at this scorching hot Exoplanet!

By: | March 21st, 2020

An artist’s impression of the night-side view of the exoplanet WASP-76b. (ESO/M. Kornmesser)

Scientists recently discovered the bizarre exoplanet, where it rains iron. This massive exoplanet is hundreds of light-years away from Earth. It is exposed to thousands of times the radiation that the Earth receives from the Sun. Temperature on this exoplanet is hot enough to vaporize metals.

Researchers did this discovery using the ESPRESSO instrument, mounted on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

David Ehrenreich, who led this study, said, “One could say that this planet gets rainy in the evening, except it rains iron,”

The world is known as WASP-76b, and is 640 light-years away, in the Pisces constellation.

One side of the planet is always facing its parent star and it is permanently day. Here temperature reaches up to 2400 degrees Celsius. However the other half of the planet the cooler “night side” remains in constant darkness. Because of extreme difference in temperature, there is difference in pressures as well. When strong winds push vaporized iron to the night side, it condenses into droplets, creating an iron rainstorm.

Astrophysicist María Rosa Zapatero Osorio, said, “The observations show that iron vapor is abundant in the atmosphere of the hot day side of WASP-76b,” 

“A fraction of this iron is injected into the night side owing to the planet’s rotation and atmospheric winds. There, the iron encounters much cooler environments, condenses, and rains down.”

Comic-book-style illustration showing the evening border of WASP-76b.(Frederik Peeters)

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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