WASP-12b, a fiery and pitch black exoplanet, would not be your next vacation destination.
In fact, this pitch-black heavenly body has many characteristics that would keep space tourists away.
Most of the light which travels to WASP-12b doesn’t come back again. The truth is, the black planet just doesn’t reflect much of the light that it absorbs.
This exoplanet reflects little brightness, only 0.064 according to albedo measurements taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s spectrograph. This is less than what our moon reflects at 0.12 albedo. So, the black planet devours almost 94% of the light that falls onto it, and this is what makes it so unbelievably dark.
Lead researcher, Taylor Bell of the McGill University and the Institute for Research on Exoplanets in Canada, said,
“We did not expect to find such a dark exoplanet. Most hot Jupiters reflect about 40% of starlight.”
So, what is this talk of “hot Jupiter”
The label “hot Jupiter” is given to planets which orbit really close to their host star and they also have characteristics of being a giant gaseous planet. Our Jupiter is a giant gas planet, hence the nickname. WASP-12b is so close to its host that one year is like a day on earth. This close proximity causes the planet to be tidally locked, making rotation and orbit exactly the same. This, in turn, gives the planet a rather egg-shaped look.
Most other “hot Jupiter” planets are able to trap more of the light which they absorb, but not WASP-12b. This planet actually acts more like a star.
“This new Hubble research further demonstrates the vast diversity among the strange population of “hot Jupiters”.
Day and night
Just like our moon has two sides which never change places, WASP-12b has one side of perpetual day and one side which remains forever in night. Temperatures vary quite a bit as well between day and night for this dark planet.
The side facing the sun endures temperatures of about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the nighttime side has a lower temp of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, this means the side of perpetual night experiences clouds formed by water vapor.
Here are a few interesting facts about the black planet. Deep within the atmosphere of WASP-12b, a red light glows. This exoplanet gets so intensely hot that the surface glows red like molten metal. The proximity of this planet to its star, which causes such heat, will eventually destroy the planet’s atmosphere. It is said that WASP-12b will only survive another 10 million years before it is completely consumed by its star.
On a brighter note, the planet has a high carbon/oxygen ratio, meaning its rich in carbon – diamonds or graphite. Could it be, that WASP-12b could be the “diamond planet”? And WASP-12b also has a small moon which is unexpected considering its nature and substance.
The mysteries of the universe
WASP-12b was discovered in 2008 and has been studied for almost 10 years. This dark and mysterious exoplanet is around 1400 light years from earth, which isn’t very far away according to space exploration standards.
This exoplanet is becoming one of the most studied objects outside our solar system, but soon we shall find something else that leaves us in awe. If you think the WASP-12b is fascinating, just wait for what is to come. I am sure there will be even stranger and more astonishing discoveries in the future.
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