Next time when you’re eager to complain about the weather during a working day, you should consider the fact that there are numerous planets out there in the vast ocean of our Universe where it’s either too hot or too cold for life to exist at all. The description also applies for the WASP-121b exoplanet that’s located 850 light-years away.
WASP-121b is also called a ‘hot Jupiter’, and the reason is obvious: the exoplanet is a gas giant that reaches between 2,500 and 3,000 degrees Celsius at its surface. That means about the same temperature of the host star, and you have probably already guessed the reason: the star itself is pretty much just as hot as the planet.
Seven metals in WASP-121b’s atmosphere
According to new research published in Astronomy & Astrophysics (https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/abs/2020/09/aa38365-20/aa38365-20.html), the WASP-121b exoplanet is rich in metals that behave like gases. Astronomers previously concluded that the exoplanet is too hot, and therefore, the atmosphere should be less poor than expected. This means that complex molecules shouldn’t be able to form under such high temperatures.
But the earlier studies suggested that molecules containing the vanadium metal and a lack of titanium could explain a part of the WASP-121b’s atmosphere.
Astronomer Jens Hoeijmakers from the Universities of Bern and Geneva in Switzerland, declared:
“Previous studies tried to explain these complex observations with theories that did not seem plausible to me,”
“But it turned out that they were right. To my surprise, we actually found strong signatures of vanadium in the observations.”
With the help of the HARPS spectrograph instrument mounted on the La Silla 3.6m telescope that belongs to the European Southern Observatory, the scientists could recently find the metals in the exoplanet’s atmosphere. There was vanadium, iron, chromium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and nickel. Surprisingly enough, there was no titanium detected.
“All metals evaporated as a result of the high temperatures prevailing on WASP-121b, thus ensuring that the air on the exoplanet consists of evaporated metals, among other things,”
Now you know where to search for metals if you’ve run out of them. You’ll just have to build somehow a spacecraft that violates Einstein’s statement and therefore travel faster than the speed of light. Nobody has ever done it, but there’s always a start for everything.