Scientists labeled this object a “weird beast” or “the planet that shouldn’t exist” because of its incredible nature.
A collaborative work of astronomers from different parts of the world, allowed the discovery of a strange planet that could have metal clouds that unleash titanium rains and produce a “mirror effect” in its atmosphere. This discovery was made thanks to the space observatory CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (Characterization of Exoplanets in Spanish and CHEOPS for its acronym in English) of the European Space Agency (ESA).
In addition, scientists from the Center of Excellence in Astrophysics CATA and the Institute of Astrophysics Studies of the Diego Portales University (UDP) and the University of Chile also participated in the study. “We have discovered this ‘extremely strange’ object, which appears to have highly reflective metallic clouds high in its atmosphere,” explains James Jenkins, UDP astronomer and one of CATA’s principal investigators.
The planet was named LTT9779b and is 260 light years from Earth. In fact, experts detected it for the first time in 2020, but it was not until now that it was analyzed in more detail. With the CHEOPS measurements they were able to determine some aspects of it, such as its temperatures, which are close to 2,000 °C, and its metallic rains. “Even though the planet has a temperature of around 2,000 degrees Celsius, it still has clouds, but not water clouds as we know them on Earth, but titanium and silicate clouds, metal clouds,” Jenkins explains.
The clouds, in these conditions, could condense into drops and generate rain, the study explains. Scientists also dubbed this object a “weird beast” or “the planet that shouldn’t exist” because of its incredible nature. And it is that the planets of this type discovered are very few, according to a CATA statement, their discovery implies a lot of work to understand their characteristics and how they could have formed in the first place. “The few planets beyond LTT9779b are all dense rocky worlds, probably without an atmosphere, making them difficult to study. Also, most of the rocky planets and hot Jupiters that we have previously studied in similar ways are dark, which means that they probably do not harbor such reflective clouds in the atmosphere,” Jenkins adds.
The astronomer also comments that despite its rarity, LTT9779b is similar to Venus, because it generates a reflective effect due to its materials, “it is a gigantic mirror in space!”, he pointed out. However, he emphasized that there is still a lot to learn from him. “We are also expanding this project to other planets that may be similar to LTT9779b, but as mentioned above, the others we currently have are not well placed for study,” he said.