Imagine a world where clouds are made of metal and liquid rubies and sapphires fall from the sky. A new study suggests that on Jupiter’s hot exoplanet WASP-121 b this may be a reality.
In 2015, scientists discovered gas giant WASP-121 b exoplanet 880 light years from Earth. The alien world is what is known as “hot Jupiter”, a class of gas giants that are physically similar to Jupiter, but revolve around their stars much closer (hence their “hot” nature). Since its discovery, researchers have further explored this world and its amazing atmosphere.
In a new study, scientists use Hubble Space Telescope made the first detailed measurement of the atmosphere on the cooler night side of the planet. And this nocturnal atmosphere seems to have a number of amazing and wonderful qualities, including metallic clouds and rain, made of what may be liquid gems.
“It’s interesting to study planets such as WASP-121 b, which are very different from those in our solar system because they allow us to see how the atmosphere behaves in extreme conditions,” said co-author Joanna Barstow, a researcher at the Open University in the UK. the statement said.
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This hot Jupiter is closed by the tidal path, which means that one side is always facing its star and the other side is facing away. On the stellar side of the day WASP-121 b metals and minerals evaporate. According to the statement, the upper atmosphere during the day can heat up to 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 degrees Celsius), so hot that the water in the atmosphere glows and molecules are destroyed.
But on the night side of the planet, the team found that the temperature of the atmosphere is essentially halved. This difference in temperature causes strong winds to blow from west to east around the planet, dragging water through the atmosphere from day to night. If water molecules are stretched to hydrogen and oxygen atoms under the action of heat during the day, then the low temperature on the night side then recombines the atoms into water vapor. This water is distracted by winds during the day and stretched in a continuous cycle.
The temperature on the night side is never low enough for water clouds to form during this cycle, but that doesn’t mean clouds aren’t formed at all. While water clouds are not formed, metal clouds are formed.
Preliminary Hubble data showed signs of metals, including iron, magnesium, chromium and vanadium, that existed as gases on the day side of the planet. But in this study, researchers found that on the night side of the planet it gets cold enough for these metals to condense into clouds.
And just as a strong wind pulls water vapor and atoms around the planet to break and recombine, metal clouds will blow to the day side of the planet and evaporate, condense back to the night side and so on.
But metal clouds are not the only strange phenomenon these researchers have noticed on this hot Jupiter. They also found evidence of possible rain in the form of liquid gems.
Scientists were surprised that among the metals they found in the planet’s atmosphere, they did not find aluminum or titanium. They think this amazing discovery can be explained by the fact that metals condense and sink into the lower levels of the planet’s atmosphere beyond these observations, the statement said.
This metallic vapor, which condenses into metallic rain, will see aluminum condense along with oxygen to form corundum. It is a metallic compound that, when contaminated with other metals suspected of the planet’s atmosphere, forms what we know on Earth as rubies or sapphires, the statement said.
This work shed new light on the hot night side of Jupiter, but the team also explored the day side of the planet.
“To study the entire surface of WASP-121 b, we took spectra using Hubble during two full revolutions of the planet,” said co-author David Singh, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
By combining this information about the night side of WASP-121 b with data about the day side of the exoplanet, the team is working to uncover a new insight into how the world’s atmosphere works in general. The team was able to observe the full water cycle on the planet and, in doing so, became the first to study the full water cycle of the exoplanet, the statement said.
However, there is much to learn. The team plans to further explore the exoplanet with NASA James Webb Space Telescopethe next-generation observatory that recently arrived in space to explore the farthest corners of the universe in the infrared.
“To better understand this planet, we are going to observe it with the James Webb Space Telescope for the first year of its operation,” said lead author Thomas Michal-Evans, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. .
This work was published today (February 21) in the journal Nature Astronomy.
https://www.space.com/metal-clouds-rain-hot-jupiter-exoplanet-wasp121b Metal clouds and liquid gems seen in the atmosphere of hot Jupiter WASP-121 b