A pitch-black planet orbits an alien star 1400 light-years away


New data from the Hubble Space Telescope shows that WASP-12b, which has a radius twice as large as Jupiter's, is an incredibly hot planet with a very low albedo-meaning that it's incredibly dark.

Scientists aren't completely sure why WASP-12b reflects so little light, but its high temperature is the most likely explanation. The discovery of new planet located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Auriga has stunned the scientists as planet absorbs more than 94 percent of the visible light coming from its star instead of reflecting it.

Almost 1,400 light years away, a pitch black planet is slowly being devoured by its star.

Similar exoplanets would include others in the class of WASP-12b, known as "hot Jupiters".

Since its discovery, several telescopes have studied the exoplanet, including Hubble, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the agency's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Previous observations by Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) revealed that the planet may be downsizing. Its atmosphere it so hot that it starts to mimic the atmosphere of a small star.

The researcher team, which was led by researchers from McGill University in Canada and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, used the Hubble Space Telescope to catch a glimpse of WASP-12b in the hopes of learning more about it.

"The results were surprising!"

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The study which details their findings, "The Very Low Albedo of WASP-12b from Spectral Eclipse Observations with Hubble", was recently published in The Astrophysical Journal.

"This is an extremely low value, making the planet darker than fresh asphalt!" WASP-12b is about two times less reflective than the Moon, which has an albedo of 0.12. "This is in contrast to the Bond albedo, which describes the total amount of energy reflected across all wavelengths and always falls in the range of 0 to 1", the researchers explained.

"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.

It's so hot, in fact, that molecular hydrogen - the familiar H2 - gets broken apart into atomic hydrogen in WASP-12b's skies.

"There are other hot Jupiters that have been found to be remarkably black, but they are much cooler than WASP-12b", Bell said. According to the NASA astronomers, the pitch black planet is similar to Jupiter in our solar system as the planet is mostly made up of gas and has extremely hot surface temperature that hovers around 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit. The atmosphere is rich in hydrogen atoms, which makes the exoplanet have an atmosphere closer to that of a low-mass star.

The side that receives the most light reaches temperatures that are too hot for clouds and alkali metals to form. On this side, temperatures are about 1366 K (1093 °C; 2000 °F) cooler, which allows water vapor and clouds to form. Previous Hubble observations of the day/night boundary detected evidence of water vapor and possibly clouds and hazes in the atmosphere.