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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.

Go deeper: Curiosity rover captures a Martian panorama

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.