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Size of Raindrops Helps to Find Planets Outside Our Solar System

A study published in JGR Planets shows that the Raindrops are similar across the planets. If humankind steps into another planet, the planet can be completely different but the rain remains the same.

A group of Harvard researchers researched the Raindrops. They are the same on two different planets like earth and Jupiter. Understanding the behaviour of Raindrops on other planets is key to not only understanding the ancient climate on planets like Mars but identifying potentially habitable planets outside our solar system.

Kaitlyn Loftus, a graduate student in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and lead author of the paper said that the lifecycle of clouds is important when we consider planet habitability. The clouds and precipitation are too complicated. They are very complex to create a model. The researchers looked for a simpler way to understand how clouds evolve, and a first step is whether cloud droplets evaporate in the atmosphere or make it to the surface as rain.

Robin Wordsworth, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the senior author of the paper added that the Raindrops is important in the precipitation cycle for all planets. To represent rainfall in complex climate models researchers tried to understand the behaviour of Raindrops.

To understand the behaviour of raindrops at least to climate modellers is whether or not the Raindrops makes it to the surface of the planet because the water in the atmosphere plays a big role in planetary climate. To that end, size matters.  Big drops will break due to insufficient surface tension, regardless of whether it’s water, methane or superheated, liquid iron as on an exoplanet called WASP-76b. A small drop will evaporate before hitting the surface.

Researchers identified a Goldilocks zone for raindrop size using just three properties: drop shape, falling speed, and evaporation speed. They also identified the wide range of planetary conditions, the math of Raindrops falling means only a very small fraction of the possible drop sizes in a cloud can reach the surface.

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