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Space & Astronomy

Mysterious exoplanet is 'blacker than asphalt'

By T.K. Randall
September 16, 2017 · Comment icon 4 comments

WASP-12b is both incredibly hot and incredibly dark. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)
A 'hot Jupiter' world situated 1,400 light years away reflects so little light that it appears pitch black.
Known as WASP-12b, this distant exoplanet has a radius twice that of Jupiter and orbits its parent star so closely that one year is the equivalent to a mere 24 hours here on Earth.

Now using the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) on the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have revealed another surprising property of this planet - an albedo of 0.064.

This means that it reflects next to no light at all and appears almost totally black.
The main reason for this, scientists believe, is the extreme temperature of its atmosphere which prevents clouds from forming and can even break up hydrogen molecules into atomic hydrogen.

Its atmosphere is so hot in fact that it acts more like that of a low-mass star than a planet.

"There are other hot Jupiters that have been found to be remarkably black, but they are much cooler than WASP-12b," said study lead author Taylor Bell.

"For those planets, it is suggested that things like clouds and alkali metals are the reason for the absorption of light, but those don't work for WASP-12b because it is so incredibly hot."

Source: Space Telescope | Comments (4)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Parsec 7 years ago
Wow, it looks like this WASP planetary system is really intriguing and quite unique so far, based on observations on WASP-12b and WASP-19b.    I'm thrilled to know more about it. 
Comment icon #2 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
Wasp-12b and Wasp-19b are in totally different planetary systems. Wasp stands for Wide Angle Search for Exoplanets. The number signifies that these were the 12th and 19th planetary systems found by this search. The b signifies that in both cases this was the first planet discovered in their respective planetary system and ("a" is reserved for the parent star(s)).
Comment icon #3 Posted by pallidin 7 years ago
What a wonderful universe.  
Comment icon #4 Posted by Parsec 7 years ago
Ah wow, what a gaffe.  Cheers Waspie for pointing that out! 


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