The backside of exoplanets is full of surprises, and WASP-121b will rain liquid gemstones at night

The weather on the backside of exoplanets can be unbelievably wonderful, such as the hot exoplanet WASP-121b 850 light-years away, which accumulates metallic iron clouds, rains liquid gemstones, and blows 17,703 kilometers per hour on the backside. of strong winds.

WASP-121b is an exothermal Jupiter nearly 2 times larger than Jupiter. It is 850 light-years away from Earth. It was first discovered in 2015 and has one of the shortest planetary orbits ever detected, orbiting the star in 30 hours. WASP-121b is also tidally locked by the parent star, so the sun-facing (daytime) side facing the parent star is so hot that the atmospheric molecules are almost disintegrating.

Previous studies have found that WASP-121b has stratosphere and water vapor, and includes heavy metals such as iron, magnesium, chromium, and vanadium, which escape into space in the form of gas on the sunny side without precedent in history. According to the new study by the MIT team, the scientists further mapped the dramatic temperature changes from the sun side to the back side and tracked how water circulates in WASP-121b.

Earth’s water evaporates, condenses into clouds, and rains in constant cycles; but the WASP-121b molecule cycles much more strongly. The researchers pointed out that molecules will decompose into atoms at high temperature on the sunny side, and the temperature of the back (night) side of WASP-121b is half lower than that of the other side. and reassemble into molecules.

This cycle, while not forming clouds of water, creates clouds of metallic iron and corundum—the minerals that make up rubies and sapphires—and drops a strange rain of liquid gemstones before the clouds leave the night.

Other astronomers have scheduled the James Webb Space Telescope to observe WASP-121b later this year, hoping to map changes in carbon monoxide in addition to water vapor. MIT astronomer Mikal-Evans said this would be the first time measuring carbon-containing molecules in an exoplanet’s atmosphere, and analyzing atmospheric carbon and oxygen levels could provide clues to where such planets formed.

The new paper is published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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