NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has declared that a previously discovered exoplanet is almost completely black. The scientists find that this planet absorbs 94 percent of all light falling upon it. This is quite a unusual case for a planet.
The exoplanet is located 1,400 light-years from Earth, called WASP-12b. It’s a “hot Jupiter”, which is a gas giant that orbits unbelievably close to its host star. On its day side, this planet seems to have a temperature of 2,500°C (4,600°F). It’s about half as hot on its night side.
How WASP-12b looks like?
The planet is darker than asphalt, and makeing the planet two times less reflective than our own Moon, which has an albedo of 0.12. This is what a team of scientists have found out, using Hubble.
This team is led by McGill University, Canada, and the University of Exeter, UK. This matter of reflectivity is because of the finding that the planet once had an albedo – or reflectivity – of just 0.064.
In fact, this is the first time, after numerous studies, That we’ve got a grasp on what WASP-12b looks like as it was discovered back in 2008, orbiting its Sun-like star towards the constellation of Auriga.
In a statement, lead researcher Taylor Bell of McGill University and the Institute for Research on Exoplanets in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, mentioned that they did not expect to find such a dark exoplanet. He added that most hot Jupiters reflect about 40 percent of starlight.
WASP-12b absorbs all starlight
One side of the planet is in perpetual daylight and the other endless darkness. This is because it is tidally locked to its star. By watching, as the planet passed behind the star, astronomers deduced its color.
This lead them to know how much light is being reflected by the day side, but observations assert that there was essentially no reflected light. This shows that the day side of the planet is absorbing all of the starlight hitting it.
In addition, the reason behind this is that clouds cannot form on the day side of the planet. Hydrogen molecules are broken down into atomic hydrogen, which absorbs more of the incoming light. So that it gets very hot.
WASP-12b completes an orbit a day as it orbits just 2 million miles away from its star. Its proximity has also stretched the planet into an egg shape, and also makes it extremely hot. Similar to a glowing metal, the planet would appear red, if you could see the planet up close, because of its high temperature.