A pitch black planet? NASA's Hubble observes exoplanet reflecting almost no light

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA and the European Space Agency have discovered that a gas planet outside our solar system reflects almost none of the light it receives, making it more or less pitch black.

Dubbed a “hot Jupiter” in Thursday press releases by both NASA and ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope website, the exoplanet known as WASP-12b was first discovered in 2008. It was not until this week that scientists – using the Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph – learned how much (or in this case, how little) light it reflects. It turns out WASP-12b keeps about 94 percent of its visible light inside its atmosphere.

The Hubble’s Twitter account posted an artist’s depiction of the planet.

Obviously, a more realistic rendering would simply be a blank screen.

“We did not expect to find such a dark exoplanet,” said Taylor Bell, lead researcher of the Hubble study, in NASA’s release.

Egg-shaped WASP-12b has a radius nearly double that of Jupiter and has a fixed “day” side and “night” side, according to NASA’s release. The daytime side reaches 2,600 degrees Celsius on the planet’s surface.

The full results of the study, performed to observe WASP-12b’s atmosphere, are available in the Thursday’s issue of “The Astrophysical Journal Letters.”

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