The cosmos is full of wonders and this gem of a gas giant is one of them.
Astronomers were surely amazed when they discovered HAT-P-7b, a gas giant located more than 1,000 light years away from Earth, in the constellation of Cygnus. Don’t let its unassuming name get the best of it, because on this planet there is always a chance of sapphire and ruby rain. Not the colors, the gemstones.
At over 16 times the size of Earth, this planet is tidally locked with its parent star, meaning that one side is always facing the star, while the other is in a perpetual night. Temperatures on the sunlit side reach a blistering 4,700 degrees Fahrenheit, nearly twice as high as the melting point of steel.
With one side ceaselessly scorched and the other in never ending darkness, you can expect some colossally freaky weather. Massive weather changes give rise to devastating storms that engulf the entire planet, researchers at the University of Warwick concluded.
“We expect clouds to form on the cold night side of the planet, but they would evaporate quickly on the hot dayside,” explained Dr. David Armstrong, one of the astrophysicists who studied HAT-P-7b. “These results show that strong winds circle the planet, transporting clouds from the night side to the day side. The winds change speed dramatically, leading to huge cloud formations building up then dying away.”
Data obtained from spectroscopy measurements has shown the presence of precipitation on this planet but water is not the culprit. No, on HAT-P-7b there is a constant whirlwind of corundum hail, the crystalline compound that makes up rubies and sapphires. Who knows, maybe in the right conditions it could condense into a downpour of gems the likes of which would satisfy your wildest dreams.
This is the first time astronomers have indirectly observed weather patterns on a gas giant outside the Solar System. Here we have Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, all of them exhibiting mesmerizing weather patterns. But as dazzling as Jupiter’s eye looks, it’s no match for a gem dust storm.