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There’s Metal in the Air

24 Jul 2020, 16:00 UTC
There’s Metal in the Air
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With atmospheric temperatures ranging from roughly 3,000 to 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit, ultra-hot Jupiters are ready-made laboratories for extreme planetary science. For instance, any molecules in the atmosphere of an ultra-hot Jupiter will be broken down into their component atoms and ions. So what can be found in the atmosphere of the ultra-hot Jupiter WASP-121 b?
Laboratories for Extreme Science
Still from an animation of the ultra-hot Jupiter KELT-9 b orbiting its host. [NASA/JPL-Caltech]Ultra-hot Jupiters (UHJs) are unlike any planet in our solar system. They are massive, yet they live very close to their host stars. This proximity causes many unusual phenomena, such as chemical variations between the planet’s daysides and nightsides.
The intense heat UHJs experience also leads to their atmospheric components breaking down. Various metal atoms and ions have been identified in the atmospheres of UHJs, including neutral sodium, iron, and magnesium, and ionized titanium and calcium. However, more neutral metals ought to be detected, especially in the lower parts of these planets’ atmospheres.
Knowing which metals to expect in a UHJ would greatly aid observations and the classification of these planets. To this end, a group of researchers led by Maya Ben-Yami (University of Cambridge, UK) attempted to ...

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