The US space agency NASA’s iconic Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has spotted a pitch black planet that has a unique property of absorbing nearly all the light falling on its surface. 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.
Scientists have named the light eating planet as WASP-12b. 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. Scientists explained that the high temperature restricts the formation of could and atmosphere. Absence of clouds and atmosphere does not reflect any light and enables planet to absorb almost all the light falling on its surface. The incoming light is absorbed by hydrogen atoms and converted to heat energy which is why the planet is extremely hot and appears like a fresh asphalt.
“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. “Most hot Jupiters reflect about 40 percent of starlight.”
WASP-12b which is located nearly 2 million miles far from its star has different night time story as it is much cooler and shows the presence of clouds and haze. At night the planet cools down to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit which allows clouds and vapour to form, and reflects some light.
“This new Hubble research further demonstrates the vast diversity among the strange population of hot Jupiters,” Bell said. “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.”
Researchers used Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph to examined the dip in reflected light in day and night time. They also took the help of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to get a better insight of the unique planet. The pitch black planet was first spotted back in 2008 and since then it has stunned scientists with its mysterious nature.
Moreover, the Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.
The Hubble space telescope was launched in 1990 and since then it is the largest telescope in space. HST has helped scientists in exploring the deepest corners of the universe and has beamed back millions of stunning shots in its entire career. However, HST will be replaced by the James Webb Telescope in 2018 as it has thrice larger lens when compared to HST.