News: A new study shows that liquid metal, ruby and sapphire could rain on a huge exoplanet.

20/03/2022
Credit image: NASA - artistic image of WASP-121b
Credit image: NASA - artistic image of WASP-121b

Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 20 March 2022, at 09:35 am Los Angeles time

According to a new study by scientists, ruby, sapphire and various liquid metals can rain on a huge and very hot exoplanet (a planet outside the solar system).

The scientists came to this conclusion after collaborating with a team of astronomers, creating a more detailed 3D model of the WASP-121b exoplanet.

This exoplanet is a gas giant, according to NASA, with a radius of 1,753 x the radius of Jupiter and a mass of 1,157 x the radius of Jupiter.

The exoplanet was discovered in 2016 and since then research has been done on it, now we can create a 3D model of its atmosphere.

Scientists have also investigated how water and metal are transported between the hot and cold parts of the exoplanet, which is ~ 850 light-years from us.

The exoplanet completes its orbit around its star in approx. 30 hours, which means it's pretty close to its star. Thus, the team of researchers together with astronomers went on to study the night and day of the exoplanet.

Thanks to these observations, the team of scientists managed to make a 3D model that would contain even the smallest details of the atmosphere of the mysterious gas giant.

The first results of the study are fascinating, showing that on WASP-121b it could rain with rubies, sapphires and various liquid metals during the night.

"Just measuring the day side temperature of an exoplanet yields an incomplete picture of the global climate on the planet. Understanding the night side fills in this knowledge gap," Tansu Daylan, a member of this study tells Physics World.

About this rain of sapphires, rubies and liquid metals:

According to the descriptions above, on the giant exoplanet it rain with such liquid metals and stones considered by us to be precious.

But why did it only rain at night?

Because the exoplanet is very close to its star, during the day (the face of the exoplanet facing the star) is very hot, up to 3500 K, the temperature at which the metals melt. But the study shows that there are times when it rains during the day, but quite rarely.

If it really rains during the day with liquid metals, then a hypothesis would be that the metal clouds are pushed from the night hemisphere to the day hemisphere with speeds of 18,000 km / h.

"Our new data gave us direct evidence for these winds because the hottest region of the day side atmosphere was slightly to the east of the 'noon' point right underneath the star," says Thomas Mikal-Evans, the study leader.

"Previous observations showed that titanium was missing from the atmosphere, but its chemical cousin vanadium was present in the atmosphere, Mikal-Evans adds. "Since these two atoms are chemically similar, it seemed odd that we'd observe one but not the other" he continue.

"Our new data reveal for the first time that the temperatures on the night side hemisphere drop low enough for titanium and aluminium gas to precipitate and rain down to deeper layers of the atmosphere, whereas vanadium precipitates at lower temperatures making it harder for it to rain out".

"We were able to observe that most of the water molecules get ripped apart on the day side because it's so hot, while those that survive deeper in the atmosphere are glowing strongly at infrared wavelengths," says Thomas Mikal-Evans.

"The hydrogen and oxygen atoms from the disrupted water molecules then get blown around to the night side hemisphere, where the lower temperatures allow them to recombine to form water vapour once more before they are blown back around to the dayside hemisphere to repeat the cycle."

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