Photo credit: Mikal Evans
MIT astronomers have obtained the clearest view yet of the bizarre exoplanet known as WASP-121b, which has a perpetual dark side that is tidally locked to its star. What they discovered was that the night side’s atmosphere most likely hosts iron clouds and rains titanium with winds that exceed Earth’s jetstream. This exoplanet is classified as a hot Jupiter and was discovered in 2015 orbiting a star about 850 light years from Earth. Read more for a video and additional information.
These discoveries came about when researchers mapped the dramatic temperature changes from the day to the night side, observing the variance with altitude. They also tracked the presence of water through the atmosphere to show how it circulates between a planet’s day and night sides. What surprised the team the most was that the night side is apparently cold enough to host exotic clouds of iron and corundum that whip around to the day side, while exotic rain is a possibly byproduct.
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We’re now moving beyond taking isolated snapshots of specific regions of exoplanet atmospheres, to study them as the 3D systems they truly are. Hot Jupiters are famous for having very bright day sides, but the night side is a different beast. WASP-121b’s night side is about 10 times fainter than its day side,” said MIT’s Thomas Mikal-Evans and Tansu Daylan.