Hubble has just observed a pitch black exoplanet that reflects almost no light, which sheds light on the atmospheric composition of the planet.
A team of researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope have just made an astonishing discovery, finding a planet outside of our solar system that is so dark it absorbs almost all light that reaches it. It’s called Wasp-12b, and it is known as a hot jupiter, or a gas giant that orbits very close to its host star.
The planet, which is tidally locked, has a day side that can reach 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit. It also absorb about 94 percent of all light that reaches it, making it almost pitch black in appearance. Normally, it would have a dark side that would be 2,000 degrees cooler allowing clouds to develop which would reflect light back into space, but not in this case.
Wasp-12b, which was discovered in 2008, is only now being noticed for its unique characteristics, which distinguishes it from other hot Jupiters. Its days are numbered, as the host star is slowly gobbling it up with it orbiting just 2 million miles away.
“We did not expect to find such a dark exoplanet,” said Taylor Bell of McGill University and the Institute for Research on Exoplanets in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, lead researcher of the Hubble study, in a NASA statement. “Most hot Jupiters reflect about 40 percent of starlight.
“This new Hubble research further demonstrates the vast diversity among the strange population of hot Jupiters,” Bell continued. “You can have planets like WASP-12b that are 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit and some that are 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, and they’re both called hot Jupiters. Past observations of hot Jupiters indicate that the temperature difference between the day and night sides of the planet increases with hotter day sides. This previous research suggests that more heat is being pumped into the day side of the planet, but the processes, such as winds, that carry the heat to the night side of the planet don’t keep up the pace.”