Metal clouds found on hot Jupiter — Analysis

Hubble Space Telescope research indicates that rain may be made from liquid gems on the exoplanet.

An exoplanet has metal clouds and may experience rain made of liquid gems during the night that becomes airborne metals during the day. Nature Astronomy’s Monday study examines this celestial object that orbits a star around 885 light-years away from Earth. 

An international group of astronomers looked at the gas giant, called WASP-121b, as part of a study deciphering the atmospheric cycles between day and night. There had not been many observations to date of the atmospheres exoplanets.

WASP-121b, a hot Jupiter-like planet that is larger than any other planet in the solar system’s solar system, is WASP-121b. WASP-121b, like our Moon is tidally-locked, which means that even though it completes one orbit every 30.6 hour, only one side of WASP-121b, the dayside always faces its star.

“Hot Jupiters are famous for having very bright day sides, but the night side is a different beast. WASP-121b’s night side is about 10 times fainter than its day side,”Tansu Daylan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was a co-author of this study.

Apart from its unique metal clouds, it also contains a glowing atmosphere of water vapor and is being stretched to resemble a rugby ball by the strong gravitational force exerted on the star that orbits. 

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It is much more complicated than the water cycle on Earth. The day-side is where water particles are broken down, and then the night-side is where they get forced on by winds of more than 11,000 mph (17,703 kilometers an hour).

“These winds are much faster than our jet stream and can probably move clouds across the entire planet in about 20 hours,”Daylan stated.

In fact, the cool side of the planet is cold enough for iron clouds to form. They are similar to water vapor and can be pushed all over the planet. The clouds will vaporize on one side and become gases, but it is thought that liquid gems may fall on the other side.

Researchers claim that the study gives a complete and holistic understanding of exoplanet atmospheres. “With this observation, we’re really getting a global view of an exoplanet’s meteorology,”Thomas Mikal Evans from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Astronomy was the lead author of this study.

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