And while this next story is discouraging toward finding life, it’s still pretty cool. Well, actually, it’s really hot. Extremely hot.
Exoplanet WASP-121b is 850 light-years from Earth and orbits its star in less than two days. It’s also very close to its star, which means its outermost surface is around 2,500 to 3,000 degrees Celsius. Do you want to know what researchers found in the atmosphere? Vaporized metals, y’all. Specifically, vanadium, iron, chromium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and nickel.
Not exactly a candidate for life as we know it, but it does give us one more exoplanetary atmosphere to understand and recognize when we find it on other worlds.
“Hot Exoplanet Atmospheres Resolved with Transit Spectroscopy (HEARTS) —
IV. A Spectral Inventory of Atoms and Molecules in the High-Resolution
Transmission Spectrum of WASP-121 b,” H. J. Hoeijmakers et al. 2020 Sep. 18,
Astronomy & Astrophysics (preprint on arxiv.org)