Scientists Have Discovered a Planet Where It Literally Rains Metal
Earth's inner core may be rich with hot liquid metal, but it turns out that our planet may not be the most metal planet in the cosmos. After all, astronomers recently discovered a world where it quite literally rains metal from the sky.
Sure, on Earth, one can go for a stroll and possibly get stuck in a downpour of water. But on the extrasolar planet WASP-76b, theoretical beings on one side of the sphere would have to take shelter from deluges of atmospheric iron. That's what the findings in the science journal Nature highlighted Wednesday (March 11).
As reported by CNET, the discovery comes from a group of astronomers' 60-day observation of WASP-76b through the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, located in Chile. A new instrument on the telescope helped them "study the absorption of light emitted from the ultra-hot planet."
What they found was that super-hot temperatures on one side of the tidally-locked planet contribute to the iron rain on the other side. Indeed, the 3800 degrees Fahrenheit temps on WASP-76b's daytime side vaporize metals like iron. On its "cooler" nighttime side (2700 degrees) that iron condenses into rain.
"The observations show that iron vapor is abundant in the atmosphere of the hot day side of WASP-76b," astrophysicist Maria Rosa Zapatero Osorio explained in a press release. "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."
Added David Ehrenreich, another participating scientist and lead author of the study, "One could say that this planet gets rainy in the evening, except it rains iron."
Talk about a heavy metal planet.
ESOcast 218: The Stranger Exoplanets - March 11, 2020
The 50 Best Metal Albums of 2019