Hubble observes exoplanet so dark that it absorbs 94 percent of the visible starlight that falls on it

The Hubble Space Telescope has observed an exoplanet that is incredibly dark and difficult to see. This is because the exoplanet absorbs about 94 percent of the light in the visible spectrum that falls on its atmosphere. The exoplanet is known as WASP-12b, and belongs to a class of planets known as "hot Jupiters." The planet is about 1,400 light years away in the constellation of Auriga. The findings have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

WASP 12-b. Image: NASA.

WASP 12-b. Image: NASA.

Taylor Bell, lead researcher of the study says, "This new Hubble research further demonstrates the vast diversity among the strange population of hot Jupiters. 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."

The planet is tidally locked to the host star, which means one side experiences a perpetual daylight while the other side is stuck in a neverending night. One side of the planet is incredibly hot because of how close the planet is to the host star. The day side of the planet is considerably hotter than the night side. There is evidence that the night side has water vapour in the atmosphere. Most of the light that falls on the pitch black planet penetrates deep into the atmosphere, where it is absorbed by hydrogen atoms and converted into heat energy.

Hubble has previously discovered a hot Jupiter with an atmosphere so hot that metals would boil in the stratosphere.


Published Date: Sep 14, 2017 10:57 pm | Updated Date: Sep 14, 2017 10:58 pm