Scientists recently discovered an exoplanet, WASP-76b that experiences non-stop rain. Instead of raindrops, however, metal pellets fall from the sky.
This hot gas giant was discovered by scientists at the European Space Observatory with using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and is believed to circle a star roughly 640 light-years away in the Pisces constellation.
WASP-76b is tidally locked to its star, meaning only one side of the planet is subject to its sun’s extreme radiation. The average temperature on this side of the planet is a mouth-dropping 2,400°C (4,352°F). Researchers note that at its hottest temperatures, the planet’s volatile environment could vaporize iron vapor found in its atmosphere.
According to astrophysicist María Rosa Zapatero Osorio, of the Centre for Astrobiology in Madrid “Observations show that iron vapour is abundant in the atmosphere of the hot day side of WASP-76b.”
“WASP-76b has such bizarre temperatures and chemistry, according to an ESO press release, that ultrahot days actually vaporize the planet’s iron — and at night it cools, condenses, and falls back down as metallic rain.”https://t.co/UP7b0wbCpP
— Darrell Epp (@DarrellEpp) March 19, 2020
The ‘night side’ of the planet that faces away from the sun is much cooler, with average temperatures reaching around 1,482°C (2,700°F).
When strong atmospheric winds carry the vaporized iron from the ‘day side’ over to the night side, they condense and fall to the surface as metal rain.
WASP-76b represents one of the many different varieties of exoplanets that have been discovered over the years. Some believed to have similar atmospheres to that of our home planet, Earth. However, scientists are yet to find a viable exoplanet close enough to the Earth to actually explore.