Astronomers find disturbing signal at the point of falling iron rain

This artist’s impression shows hot Jupiter orbiting near its parent star.

the sun. Sidewalk

If you haven’t heard of the WASP-76b, I’m sorry to say this but you missed it. Last year, astronomers revealed a “hot Jupiter” about 640 light-years from Earth, which has an interesting nocturnal phenomenon. Every evening on the planet iron rain. Yes, our skyscrapers and apartment buildings are rolling in the sky on WASP-76b.

Iron rain is caused by extreme heat. The exoplanet is neatly locked in front of its parent star, which means that it shows only one side of it to its burning hot companion, and its face is constantly burning. By the beginning of 2020, researchers estimated that the planet had reached about 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 2,100 degrees Celsius), which would be enough to evaporate metals such as iron.

But for anyone looking to move to WASP-76b, the ratings might be a little lower.

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A new study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters on September 28 used Hawaiian Gemini telescopes to study the planet from Earth. Using a technique called spectroscopy, which allows scientists to detect elements based on a characteristic light signature, researchers analyze WASP-76b’s upper atmosphere and find, unexpectedly, that it has a strong spectral signal. Ionized calcium.

“The signal we’re seeing from calcium coming from the planet’s upper atmosphere is much stronger than we would expect from the samples,” said Ernest de Moise, an astronomer and co-author of the study at Belfast, Queen’s University.

Since the planet is so far away, it is currently impossible to see why the calcium has increased. We don’t have powerful enough telescopes to imagine what’s going on at WASP-76b, but new information astronomers are starting to figure out exactly what’s going on in the world 640 light-years away.

Previous research tested ionized calcium in two other hot giant exoplanets known as Celt-9b and WASP-33B. The research team noticed that samples of this super-hot Jupiter did not match the calcium signal they were seeing, suggesting that an unknown process may have brought more calcium into the atmosphere. The new study goes hand-in-hand with this research and helps astronomers escape gases and elements into space — faster if you’re near your host star and hot enough to evaporate iron.

The results are part of a survey of the atmospheres of exoplanets known as exogems using the Hawaii Gemini Laboratory. This project will use the same technique as the other exoplanets and will give greater accountability for their diversity, and the intriguing calcium of WASP-76b will inform the next series of exoplanet analyzes.

“We plan to observe a large sample of exoplanets to explore the diversity of exoplanet atmospheres and to better understand the basic processes,” de Moys said.

 
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