While we earthlings are being subjected to rain filled with potentially carcinogenic toxins, it looks like it’s raining rubies and sapphires on other planets outside our solar system. Astronomers from the University of Warwick have discovered that a giant, Jupiter-like planet located 1,000 light-years from Earth is surrounded by clouds infused with the same mineral that produces rubies and sapphires.
Scientists on a team led by Dr. David Armstrong used a Kepler space telescope to detect individual weather patterns on HAT-P-7b, a hot Jupiter-like planet approximately 16 times larger than Earth. The weather reports, which have recently been published in Nature Astronomy, show clouds on this planet that appear to be infused with a crystalline form of aluminum oxide, or corundum, the same mineral that produces rubies and sapphires.
The team, comprised of several scientists, began their study by monitoring the light being reflected from HAT-P-7b’s volatile atmosphere. Over a four-year period, the team recorded changes in the planet’s surface caused by the planet’s hostile weather systems, including high temps and variable winds, which scatter the planet’s clouds. Besides the news of gem-producing atmosphere, the study is notable because it is the first time that weather systems have been found on a gas giant outside the Earth’s solar system.
“These results show that strong winds circle the planet, transporting clouds from the night side to the dayside.” explained Dr. Armstrong in a press release. “The winds change speed dramatically, leading to huge cloud formations building up then dying away. This is the first detection of weather on a gas giant planet outside the solar system.” Unfortunate for those that love shiny baubles, the massive planet is completely uninhabitable due to its hostile weather systems.
Images via University of Warwick/Ronald Warmington and Creative Commons