Artist's illustration of the iron rain. Photo: ESO/M. Kornmesser

A telescope in Chile has found a world 640 light-years from Earth that rains liquid iron, adding to the strange tapestry of planets far from our own.

Why it matters: The more that scientists understand about planets circling other stars, the closer they get to finding out just how unique (or common) our solar system — and therefore life — is.

Details: The world, named WASP-76b, is tidally locked to its star, like the Moon is to Earth. The planet’s day side gets so hot that iron evaporates into its atmosphere.

  • Winds blow strong enough on the planet that the iron moves from the day side to the night side of the world where it then cools.
  • As the atmospheric iron cools, it rains onto the cooler night side.
  • The new discovery was made using the ESPRESSO instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile.

The big picture: WASP-76b is only one of the many weird exoplanets — planets circling other stars — that are fascinating scientists today.

  • The planet HD 189733b has winds that blow up to 5,400 mph and likely rains glass.
  • Another world, HD 209458b, orbits so close to its star that its thick atmosphere is evaporating and the planet appears to have a tail like a comet stretching out behind it.
  • 55 Cancri e — located about 41 light-years away — is masked by a thick atmosphere that may hide a surface covered entirely in lava.

The bottom line: While many scientists are hunting for another Earth light-years away from our solar system, hundreds of other planets with their own properties are still worthy of study.

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Jun 23, 2020 - Science

Pluto's hot start

Pluto as seen by the New Horizons probe. Photo: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Pluto's ocean may have been hiding below the dwarf planet's icy shell for billions of years since not long after the world formed.

Why it matters: Understanding how Pluto formed during the early days of the solar system is key to getting a broader picture of how objects like the distant world came to be and why its part of space looks the way it does now.

Jun 23, 2020 - Science

Hubble Space Telescope spots a cosmic jewel

Photo: NASA/ESA/J. Kastner (RIT)

Pulling back the layers of dust and gas surrounding a planetary nebula can reveal an object's history to scientists on Earth, light-years away.

The big picture: This new photo of the planetary nebula NGC 7027 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows that the object had been puffing out layers of gas in spiral or spherical patterns for hundreds of years, but that's not the case anymore.

Updated Jul 10, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Hong Kong's secondary schools, primary schools and kindergartens will close on Monday, education secretary Kevin Yeung announced Friday.

What's happening: Hong Kong reported 147 new coronavirus infections over the past week, the Financial Times reports. 88 of those infections were reportedly locally transmitted.