Exoplanets are continuing to amaze the astronomers, and perhaps it will always happen like this since such cosmic objects are predicted to exist in a number so huge that it almost defies imagination. Humanity discovered many wonders among exoplanets, like one orbiting two stars simultaneously, another one being about the size of Jupiter that orbits outrageously close to its host star, and many others.
And today we’re talking about WASP-76b, an exoplanet located 390 light-years away from us where it rains with iron. It was discovered by a team of scientists led by David Ehrenreich, who is a professor at the University of Geneva.
How’s it possible
WASP-76b doesn’t rotate like the Earth does in order to form night and day. On this exoplanet, one side has eternal night, while the other has endless daytime. Thus, due to the extreme temperatures from the star-facing side of the planet, metals like iron are evaporating into the atmosphere.
María Rosa Zapatero Osorio, an astrophysicist at the Centre for Astrobiology in Madrid, explains to us more clearly how it works:
The observations show that iron vapour is abundant in the atmosphere of the hot day side of WASP-76b,
A fraction of this iron is injected into the night side owing to the planet’s rotation and atmospheric winds. There, the iron encounters much cooler environments, condenses and rains down.
As for the chances WASP-76b has of hosting extraterrestrial life, it’s highly unlikely for several reasons. The planet isn’t rocky, it’s more like gaseous like Jupiter. It has huge temperatures on its surface: around 2,500 degrees Celsius on the dayside. Let’s say that theoretically it could harbor life, but only life forms like no-other humanity has ever seen before.
Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine that there could be some little green men enjoying the iron rain on WASP-76b as we humans enjoy the normal rain on Earth. But hopefully, one day we’ll be able to take a closer look at the exoplanet to see precisely what else is going on there.
The study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.