Darkest Known Exoplanet


 

Artist rendition by David Aguilar

Astronomers have discovered the darkest known exoplanet using data from the Kepler spacecraft.  TrES-2b is a planet the size of Jupiter that orbits a sun-like star about 750 light years away in the constellation Draco.  It reflects less than 1% of the sunlight that falls on it.  Astonomer David Kipping said, “It’s bizarre how this huge planet became so absorbent of all the light that hits it.”  It’s still unknown why the planet is so dark, but researchers have speculated that it might be light-absorbing chemicals in the planet’s atmosphere, such as gaseous titanium oxide.

In addition to being incredibly dark, it is also extremely hot.  It is only 3.1 million miles from its star, much closer than Earth’s 93 million mile distance from our sun.  It reaches a temperature of more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.  Astronomer David Spiegel describes it as “so hot that it emits a faint red glow, much like a burning ember or the coils on an electric stove,” which saves it from being pitch black.

Kepler has identified over 1,200 prospective planets so far and its mission will continue at least until November 2012.  It will fascinating to learn what other unusual planets are out there.

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