Scientists have discovered the most metal planet in the galaxy – in that it literally rains metal. Somebody call Tom Araya!
Extrasolar planet WASP-76b is approximately 640 light-years from Earth. When day turns to night, it rains iron!
The findings, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, come via a 60-day observation of WASP-76b by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile. Astronomers used data collected by the Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (Espresso), a new instrument on the Very Large Telescope, to study the absorption of light emitted from the ultra-hot planet and discovered the extremely metal iron rain phenomena.
WASP-76b is tidally-locked, only ever showing one side to its parent star, WASP-76, much the same way the moon only ever shows on face to the Earth. Essentially, the side that faces the star is battered by radiation, sending temperatures skyrocketing above 3800 degrees Fahrenheit (or around 2100 degrees Celsius) and vaporising metals like iron. The planet's ferocious winds carry that to the night side, where temperatures are a positively chilling 2700 degrees Fahrenheit (note: this is still very hot).
The team used Espresso to detect iron where day turns to night — a line called the 'terminator' — however in reverse, where the terminator turns from night to day, they couldn't detect the same signal. When the vaporized iron gets to the night side it condenses and rains down on WASP-76b in what can only be described as, "The Perfect Stage Show For An Iron Maiden Concert."
As astronomers learn more about extreme climates in other planets, it helps determine what is out thaere that would be inhabitable. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing a metal show on WASP-76b.