NASA's Hubble captures blistering pitch-black planetSeptember 14, 2017
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has observed a planet outside our solar system that looks as black as fresh asphalt because it eats light rather than reflecting it back into space. 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.
The oddball exoplanet, called WASP-12b, is one of a class of so-called "hot Jupiters," gigantic, gaseous planets that orbit very close to their host star and are heated to extreme temperatures. The planet's atmosphere is so hot that most molecules are unable to survive on the blistering day side of the planet, where the temperature is 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, clouds probably cannot form to reflect light back into space. Instead, incoming light penetrates deep into the planet's atmosphere where it is absorbed by hydrogen atoms and converted to heat energy.
"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."
But the planet's nighttime side is a different story. WASP-12b has a fixed day side and night side because it orbits so close to the star that it is tidally locked. The nighttime side is more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit cooler, which allows water vapor and clouds to form. Previous Hubble observations of the day/night boundary detected evidence of water vapor and possibly clouds and hazes in the atmosphere. WASP-12b is about 2 million miles away from its star and completes an orbit once a day.
"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."
The researchers determined the planet's light-eating capabilities by using Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph to search in mostly visible light for a tiny dip in starlight as the planet passed directly behind the star. The amount of dimming tells astronomers how much reflected light is given off by the planet. However, the observations did not detect reflected light, meaning that the daytime side of the planet is absorbing almost all the starlight falling onto it.
First spotted in 2008, WASP-12b circles a Sun-like star residing 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Auriga. Since its discovery, several telescopes have studied the exoplanet, including Hubble, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Previous observations by Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) revealed that the planet may be downsizing. COS detected material from the planet's super-heated atmosphere spilling onto the star.
For additional information, visit: http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2017-38.
For more information about Hubble, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/hubble
Donna Weaver / Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
410-338-4493 / 410-338-4514
email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
McGill University / Institute for Research on Exoplanets, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Related Solar System Articles:
Plumbing a 90 million-year-old layer cake of sedimentary rock in Colorado, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University has found evidence confirming a critical theory of how the planets in our solar system behave in their orbits around the sun.
New work from Carnegie's Stephen Elardo and Anat Shahar shows that interactions between iron and nickel under the extreme pressures and temperatures similar to a planetary interior can help scientists understand the period in our Solar System's youth when planets were forming and their cores were created.
ASU's Adam Schneider and colleagues are hunting for runaway worlds in the space between stars, and citizen scientists can join the search with a new NASA-funded website.
Researchers have discovered minerals from 43 meteorites that landed on Earth 470 million years ago.
International research involving a Monash University scientist is using new computer models and evidence from meteorites to show that a low-mass supernova triggered the formation of our solar system.
The solar system could be thrown into disaster when the sun dies if the mysterious 'Planet Nine' exists, according to research from the University of Warwick.
Through a computer-simulated study, astronomers at Lund University in Sweden show that it is highly likely that the so-called Planet 9 is an exoplanet.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will look across vast distances to find the earliest stars and galaxies and study the atmospheres of mysterious worlds orbiting other stars.
It's like something out of an interplanetary chess game. Astrophysicists at the University of Toronto have found that a close encounter with Jupiter about four billion years ago may have resulted in another planet's ejection from the Solar System altogether.
In 14 papers published in the October 2015 Astrophysical Journal Supplement, scientists present findings from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, mission providing the most definitive analyses, theories and results about local interstellar space to date.
Related Solar System Reading:
Solar System Scratch and Sketch: An Activity Book For Inquisitive Artists and Astronauts of All Ages (Scratch & Sketch)
by Heather Zschock (Author)
Explore the amazing world of outer space as you scratch pictures of planets, comets, and spacecraft to reveal glittery, swirly, and even glow-in-the-dark colors beneath.
Shrink-wrapped with a wooden stylus for drawing on black-coated paper to reveal colors beneath.64 pages.Includes 20 scratch-off, 20 illustrated, 20 sketch pages.6-3/8'' wide x 8-1/2'' high; wire-o bound hardcover.Recommended for ages 6 and up.Note: This is NOT a Trace-Along title; it is best enjoyed by kids who are comfortable copying the simple drawings.Non-toxic: Potential eye irritant. Avoid inhaling particles... View Details
Hello, World! Solar System
by Jill McDonald (Author)
Every young child loves to look up at the moon in the night sky. Now here’s a board book that can teach toddlers all about the sun, moon, stars, and planets—with colors, shapes, sizes, and super-simple facts.
Hello, World! is a series designed to introduce first nonfiction concepts to babies and toddlers. Told in clear and easy terms and featuring bright, cheerful illustrations, Hello, World! makes learning fun for young children. And each sturdy page offers helpful prompts for engaging with your child. (“Can you point to the red planet? That’s Mars!”) It’s a... View Details
13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System (National Geographic Kids)
by David A. Aguilar (Author)
First, Pluto left. Then it came back, along with Ceres and Eris...and now Haumea and MakeMake, too! The recent actions of the International Astronomical Union have put every solar system book out of date. In response, National Geographic joins forces with David Aguilar of the Harvard Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory to revise our 2008 book—and to update young readers on the high-interest topic of space. Using simple text and spectacular photorealistic computer art by the author, this book profiles all 13 planets in their newly created categories—plus the sun, the Oort Cloud, comets,... View Details
Solar System: A Visual Exploration of the Planets, Moons, and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun
by Marcus Chown (Author)
Never before have the wonders of our solar system been so immediately accessible to readers of all ages. This beautiful book presents a new and fascinating way to experience our planetary neighborhood. With hundreds of stunning photographs and graphics, as well as fascinating text by the award-winning writer and broadcaster, Marcus Chown, Solar System takes us on a whirlwind tour of the planets, dwarf planets, moons and asteroids that orbit our sun. From the surface of Mars to the rings of Saturn, from the volcanoes of Io to the latest images of Pluto from NASA's New... View Details
Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond (National Geographic Kids)
by David A. Aguilar (Author), David A. Aguilar (Illustrator)
Presenting the latest exciting findings on space exploration and research and cutting-edge, spectacular views of the universe that technology is bringing back to Earth, all in one ultimate reference book. Authored by David A. Aguilar of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia is ideal for the family bookshelf, providing both accessible information for school reports and compelling reading on the mysteries beyond our world. View Details
There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)
by Tish Rabe (Author), Aristides Ruiz (Illustrator)
Au revoir, Pluto! In this newly revised, bestselling backlist title, beginning readers and budding astronomers are launched on a wild trip to visit the now eight planets in our solar system (per the International Astronomical Union’s 2006 decision to downgrade Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet), along with the Cat in the Hat, Thing One, Thing Two, Dick, and Sally. It’s a reading adventure that’s out of this world! View Details
Solar System Reference Poster
by Kappa Map (Author)
Kappa Map Group's Solar System Reference Poster is a folded map perfect for home, school or office! Map includes Solar System facts, and scaled planet images, all in bright vivid colors! Economically priced at $3.99 these maps are ideal for studying, as well as, for school projects. Folded Maps of the Solar System are the perfect complement for students of all ages.
Dimensions: Width 40, Height 28 View Details
The Magic School Bus Lost In The Solar System
by Joanna Cole (Author), Bruce Degen (Author)
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Scholastic is re-releasing the ten original Magic School Bus titles in paperback. With updated scientific information, the bestselling science series ever is back! The fieldtrip to the planetarium is foiled when the museum turns out to be closed, but Ms. Frizzle saves the day. The Magic School Bus turns into a spaceship and takes the class on a trip zooming through the atmosphere, to the Moon, and beyond! With up-to-date facts about the solar system, revised for this edition. View Details
National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space (National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books)
by Catherine D. Hughes (Author), David A. Aguilar (Illustrator)
This beautiful book is the latest addition to the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book series. These colorful pages will introduce young children to the wonders of space, with colorful illustrations by David Aguilar and simple text that is perfect for beginning readers or for reading aloud. The book will explain basic concepts of space, beginning with what is most familiar to kids and expanding out into the universe.
• Chapter 1 focuses on the Earth, moon, and sun.
• Chapter 2 introduces kids to the other planets in our solar system.... View Details
The Planets in Our Solar System (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
by Franklyn M. Branley (Author), Kevin O'Malley (Illustrator)
Where is it partly cloudy and 860°F? Venus! This classic picture book is a fascinating exploration of space written by children's nonfiction veteran and former chairman of the American Museum of Natural History–Hayden Planetarium Franklyn M. Branley and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley. Full of interesting facts about the eight planets in our solar system, including our very own Earth, this bestselling book also features photographs from Voyager and other space explorers.
Now rebranded with a new cover look, this book features a find out more section with instructions for making your... View Details