You know what they say about a human lifetime: the more you live, the more you learn. And thank God, there are so many things to learn about our Universe. Having some estimated numbers of 96 billion light-years across, and trillions of galaxies with each having billions of stars, there’s no telling when our learning process about the Universe could end.
For the first time ever, the presence of iron in the atmosphere of an exoplanet has been proven. An international team of researchers made the discovery, as they were led by astronomers from the University of Amsterdam. Iron is a very important element – without it, our life wouldn’t be possible. Furthermore, iron is the most stable known element in the Universe.
KELT-9b is its name
KELT-9b is the exoplanet where astronomers found iron, and it’s even bigger than Jupiter, the biggest planet from our Solar System. KELT-9b is located 620 light-years away from us in the Cygnus constellation.
The researchers made their observations by using an Italian telescope called the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo. This telescope is equipped with a spectrograph named HARPS-N that is capable of splitting light and revealing specific atoms and molecules. The researchers used a technique called cross-correlation to extract the emission lines of atoms.
Iron absorbs the starlight, heating the atmosphere. By analyzing the data, the researchers believe that the iron from the atmosphere of the KELT-9b exoplanet heats the upper part, making that part of the atmosphere warmer than its lower part.
Wikipedia reveals to us even more exciting insight of the KELT-9b exoplanet:
As of January 2020, KELT-9b is the hottest known exoplanet, with dayside temperatures approaching 4,600 K, warmer than many low-mass stars. Molecules on the day side are broken into their component atoms, such that normally sequestered refractory elements can exist as atomic species, including neutral and singly ionized atomic iron (Fe and Fe+) and singly ionized titanium (Ti+), only to temporarily reform once they reach the cooler night side.