Hubble Telescope Observes Goth Jupiter

WASP-12b orbiting around its star

WASP-12b orbiting around its star

WASP-12b probably sits beneath the bleachers dressed in its black outfit with the checkered wristbands it bought from Hot Jupiter Topic, listening to The Cure while making pentagram stick-and-pokes and discussing the inevitability of the Universe's heat death. 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. "There are other hot Jupiters that have been found to be remarkably black, but they are much cooler than WASP-12b".

The statement from NASA follows below. This light-eating prowess is due to the planet's unique capability to trap at least 94 percent of the visible starlight falling into its atmosphere.

An artist's impression shows the exoplanet WASP-12b, which reflects so little light from its host star that it's darker than asphalt.

Since it gets so hot, nothing can survive on the side of the planet which is closer to the star - or the day side.

Therefore, clouds probably can not form to reflect light back into space. 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.

The results from their study turn out to be surprising. "Most hot Jupiters reflect about 40 percent of starlight".

But the planet's nighttime side is a different story.

WASP-12b is so close to its parent star that its daylight side is superheated to almost 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,540 degrees Celsius) and stretched into a football shape by enormous tidal forces. There might be a gap of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit between such two planets, and both of them might be described by the same name. Previous Hubble observations of the day/night boundary detected evidence of water vapor and possibly clouds and hazes in the atmosphere. A single Earth day is equal to a year at WASP-12b.

The low albedo came as a surprise, Bell said. Astronomers reached to see the incredible hot WASP-12b exoplanet using the Hubble Space Telescope, which is "as dark as asphalt" according to them.

"The fact that the first two exoplanets with measured spectral albedo exhibit significant differences demonstrates the importance of these types of spectral observations, and highlights the great diversity among hot Jupiters", said Bell. "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". Led by Taylor Bell, a researcher at the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (IREx) at McGill University, the team consulted data from the Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) to observe WASP-12b during an optical eclipse. This is the best method to determine the albedo of an exoplanet, as it involves directly measuring the amount of light being reflected. However, their observations did not detect reflected light, which indicated that the sun-facing side was absorbing most of the light it was receiving.

The exoplanet orbits WASP-12 (also known as Bergfors-6), a yellow dwarf star located 1,393 light-years away in the constellation Auriga.

The Hubble Space Telescope has observed an exoplanet that is incredibly dark and hard to see.

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