Researchers have discovered heavy metals which have been escaping from an exoplanet’s surface since it is too warm to properly handle. Sharing similarities with Jupiter, it’s only hotter, gassier and larger and is named WASP-121b. It orbits its sun closely, raising its temperatures to 10x times observed on any other planet so far. It has a football shape, which is as a result of its close location to its host star. It is also very close to being torn apart due to its Sun’s gravity.
Utilizing the HST, these scientists observed many heavy metals like magnesium and iron shooting away through the exoplanet’s surface, making this the 1st time any heavy metals were seen floating through the upper atmosphere of an exoplanet.
David Sing of the EPS at John Hopkins stated that while heavy metals were observed before in Jupiter like planets before, they’ve never observed them in lower atmospheres. Due to WASP-121b’s observation iron and magnesium gases have been observed in gravitationally unbound height.
The temperatures on this exoplanet can reach over 2538 degrees Celsius as per the release. Unlike other Jupiters which are cool enough for condensing magnesium and iron into clouds, the exoplanet’s heat causes it to emit all gases from the surface.
Plus, the exoplanet happens to be puffy and big causing weaker gravity levels when compared to various other planets. This makes it much easier for these gases to leave. These metals also play a role in the planet’s high temperatures. The atmosphere turns more opaque due to these metals, contributing to its warming.
Researchers are now hoping they’ll get to study this exoplanet further by utilizing NASA’s next JWS Telescope, which will launch during 2021, meant for searching for carbon dioxide and water under UV light. This study first appeared in the TAJ journal on Aug 1.