The James Webb Telescope has found a scary planet. It’s 200 light years away from us, and that’s good. The temperature there reaches one thousand degrees Celsius, it rains from sand, and the atmosphere smells of sulfur.
The planet Wasp-107b is not a completely new discovery. Astronomers spotted it in 2017. Very large and light, they sometimes call it the cotton candy planet. The James Webb Telescope proved that this was not a successful nickname.
Comparing Wasp-107b with the planets of the solar system, it is difficult to find a similar one. Its mass is small, comparable to Neptune. However, its surface area makes it a giant. Its size resembles that of Jupiter.
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It also has a very rarefied atmosphere, which should make it easier to determine its composition. However, only the Webb Telescope managed to do this. The results of his observations can be pleasing. By recording the planet’s spectrum, it allowed scientists to very precisely identify the chemical composition of Wasp-107b. However, it turns out that there is real hell in the Universe.
Sand instead of water on the planet Wasp-107b
The planet’s atmosphere contains a lot of water vapor and sulfur dioxide. It is filled with the smell of burnt matches, and that’s not all. The clouds on Wasp-107b are made of silicate sand.
Wherever there is some form of H2O on Earth, there is sand. It circulates constantly in the atmosphere, changing from a solid to a gaseous state. Consequently, sand, not water, rains from the sky on Wasp-107b.
The atmosphere of the planet Wasp-107b
According to scientists, this is possible because in the lower layers of the planet’s atmosphere the temperature reaches 1000°C. The silicate vapors therefore rise, but eventually cool. At some point, they take the form of very quickly moving, microscopic grains of sand.
This creates clouds that thicken and then fall into the lower layers of the atmosphere. Below a certain level, the sand sublimates back into steam and the cycle begins again.
The sand circulation cycle in Wasp-107b’s atmosphere is a hypothesis, but the chemical composition of its atmosphere can be taken for granted. The Webb Telescope was the first to identify it so precisely because its observations focused on the planet’s spectrum. It measures light filtered through its atmosphere, and different elements absorb different wavelengths of light.
Katarzyna Rutkowska, journalist of Wirtualna Polska