This exoplanets metallic clouds act like a mirror, reflecting light and protecting the atmosphere from the star's onslaught.
The universe we live in is a fascinating yet strange place. The more we explore it, the more we are lift surprised by what exists in the vastness of deep space. Now, experts have found a bizarre, strange distant alien world, an exoplanet that is so bright it reflects sunlight akin to a mirror.
This Exoplanet Reflects Akin to a Mirror
Bathed in sizzling temperatures, this alien world houses metallic clouds that reflect sunlight like to a mirror. And it makes it the shiniest world ever observed outside our solar system. Located over 260 light-years away, this enigmatic planet reflects 80% of its host star’s light, observations from Europe’s exoplanet-seeking Cheops telescope reveal. This reflection makes it shine as brightly as Venus, our solar system’s most radiant celestial object besides the moon.
An Anomaly in Orbit
First spotted in 2020, the Neptune-like LTT9779b completes an orbit around its star in a mere 19 hours. However, its proximity causes one side to heat up to a scorching 2000 degrees Celsius, normally too intense for cloud formation. Yet, against all odds, LTT9779b hosts a cloudy sky.
Vivien Parmentier, a researcher from France’s Cote d’Azur Observatory, admitted to their bewilderment. The enigma unfolded when they drew a parallel to how hot showers cause bathroom condensation. On LTT9779b, similarly, streams of hot metal and silicate oversaturate the atmosphere, resulting in metallic clouds, he explained.
A Maverick Among Peers
Five times Earth’s size, LTT9779b also defies norms with its orbital speed. Previously discovered exoplanets that orbit their stars within 24 hours have been either mammoth gas giants or rocky dwarfs. However, LTT9779b resides in the “Neptune desert,” a region deemed inhospitable for planets of its size. “It’s a planet that shouldn’t exist,” Parmentier noted.
The atmosphere of such planets is usually blown away by their stars, leaving bare rock behind. Yet, according to Maximilian Guenther, Cheops project scientist, LTT9779b’s metallic clouds act like a mirror, reflecting light and protecting the atmosphere from the star’s onslaught. He likens the phenomenon to protective shields in sci-fi movies.
A Milestone in Exoplanet Research
The discovery has been hailed as a significant milestone, illuminating how Neptune-sized planets can survive in the Neptune desert. Launched in 2019, the Cheops space telescope measures the reflectiveness of LTT9779b by comparing the light before and after the exoplanet ducks behind its star.
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