Iron Rainfall? What is that? Wasp67b might cause bigger damage than it was expected, researchers say

At night, droplets of an iron raindrop from the sky on dark exoplanet hundreds of light-years away from Earth. The new findings suggest the planet, called Wasp 76b, is hotter than scientists expected. Based on observations with the Gemini North Telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, researchers detected sodium and ionized calcium in the planet’s atmosphere.   

What do the papers say?

The findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters on 28 September and presented at Tuesday’s annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. The research is part of a Cornell University-led project called ExoGEM (Exoplanet Gemini Spectroscopy Survey). The project brings together scientists to study the diversity of atmospheres of exoplanets or planets outside our solar system.    

In a statement, Ray Jayawardhana, the co-author of the study, and Harold Tanner, dean of Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Astronomy, said that now we can remotely explore dozens of exoplanets with different masses and temperatures. Remarkably, we can learn so much about atmospheres, their physical properties, the presence of clouds, and large wind patterns on planets orbiting stars hundreds of light-years away, he said.    

The ultrahot planet the size of Jupiter, discovered in 2016, orbits the star Pisces in the constellation Proxima Centauri, about 640 light-years from Earth. Due to its proximity to its star, the planet orbits Pisces every 18 Earth days, absorbing the radiation the Earth receives from the Sun thousands of times.    

The spectral signature of ionized calcium suggests that wasp 76b has a solid upper atmosphere and winds. “The wasp’s atmospheric temperature is much higher than we previously thought. We can see how much calcium is in the planet’s atmosphere, and that is its most vital feature, “Emily Deibert, co-author of the study and a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.   

The planet is tidally locked, which means that the same side of the world is always facing the star. This is similar to the orbit of our moon around the Earth.  

On so-called diurnal planets facing away from the star, temperatures can exceed 2426 degrees Celsius. These temperatures generate iron vapor. This vapor condenses into clouds and causes rain, consisting of liquid iron; this liquid iron is formed when the iron is observed. Fast winds carry iron vapor to the night side, where cooler temperatures hover around 1,315 degrees Celsius.   

Do the research studies prove the same thing?

The EXOGEN study, which examined 30 exoplanets, was led by Jake Turner, a Carl Sagan Fellow in the Hubble Fellowship program at NASA and a research associate at Cornell University’s Astronomical Institute. “Our work with other researchers has paved the way for exploring the atmosphere of terrestrial worlds beyond our solar system, ” said Turner.    

Understanding the chemistry of the atmosphere of exoplanets will help astronomers better understand their weather, climate, and environment. Ultra-hot gas giants such as WASP-76b have daytime temperatures comparable to the surface of excellent stars and, according to previous studies, are evolving into a class of “exoplanets.”. Other types of unusual rain have been proposed for other planets, such as HD 189733 b’s evil winds that send glassy silicate rain to its surface or Neptune’s diamond rain.

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