Thanks to great advances in technology, scientists were able to learn that the distant exoplanet, Wasp-76b, has weather that really, really sucks. Like...wearing a parka in Death Valley in July would feel like a walk-in freezer by comparison.
According to the Associated Press, European astronomers have learned that the exoplanet (which is simply a fancy way of saying it orbits a star outside the solar system) has clouds full of iron that, in turn, pour down iron rain.
The heat also blows, as Wasp-76b's sunny side can hit temperatures of 4,350 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes iron to vaporize in its atmosphere. Scientists believe that the iron condenses on the planet's cooler side (which we'll explain in a second) likely turning into rain. These conditions pretty much lead to "droplets of metal falling from the sky," according to the University of Geneva's Christophe Lovis, who participated in a corresponding that study appeared on Wednesday in the scientific journal, Nature.
“It’s like in the heavy steel industry on Earth where they melt iron, and so you see this melting, flowing metal. That’s pretty much what we are talking about here,” Lovis told the AP.
Wasp-76b, which resides 390 light-years from Earth (or 640, depending on the source), was discovered only a few years ago.
The exoplanet is about twice the size of our solar system's biggest (Jupiter, for those who unlearned that after fifth grade because it never came up again in their lives). It takes two days to orbit around its star, and because its rotation matches how long it takes for one orbit, the same sides always face towards and away from that star.
That means, on one side it's always day, and on the other it's always night. While the day side hits temperatures that exceed 4,300 degrees, the night is a comparatively balmy 2,700. That night side also has a sky that's overcast with iron rain. Neither seem like great options.
If that doesn't seem bonkers enough, winds exceeding 11,000 mph push that vaporized iron from one side to the other.
This discovery was all made by a new add-on to the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. It's the first such discovery made with that new instrument, and astronomers say that we'll now be able to have a much better understanding of distant worlds.
Vaporized iron was previously found on an even more distant planet that was also Jupiter-esque, and was even hotter than Wasp-76b. But this is the first time actual condensation of that sort has been seen.