STATES CHRONICLE – Scientists have discovered a hot Jupiter planet, officially knows as WASP-104b, which is so dark that it is believed to be the darkest planetary body yet discovered.
Located 470 light years from our planet, in the constellation Leo, its title of “hot Jupiter planet” means that it is similar to our largest neighbor in terms of mass. However, WASP-104b but is much closer to its sun, which is a yellow dwarf.
In this case, it is a mere 2.6 million miles away, completing its “year” every few days. (Mercury, in comparison, is almost 36 million miles away from our Sun and takes 88 days to orbit it.)
The Darkness Surrounding this Hot Jupiter Planet, Explained
According to Teo Močnik, the Keele University researcher who discovered WASP-104b, most planets can reflect as much as 70% of their light (like Venus) or as little as 10%. This newly detected world, however, reflects little or no light, to the degree that it was actually very difficult for researchers to find it at all.
“From all the dark planets I could find in the literature, this is top five-ish,” states Močnik, the study author as well. “I think top three.”
As a result, specialists describe the planet as “darker than charcoal,” as it absorbs an astounding 97% to 99% of the light from its sun. Again, for contrast, most hot Jupiters reflect no more than 40% of their light.
This new planet beats out the previous darkest planet, WASP-12b, discovered last year. WASP-12b absorbs “just” 94% of its sun’s light.
This may only relate to one side of the planet, however. WASP-104b was noted to be tidally locked, similar to our Moon, with one side always facing its sun and the other facing away.
Močnik’s theory is that the extreme closeness to its sun keeps the hotter side from developing any clouds, which are a major cause of light reflection. The side without any sunlight, meanwhile, may have them.
Its darkness may also relate to the presence of alkali metals in WASP-104b’s atmosphere, as those are known to absorb a lot of visible light.
The study paper, called “WASP-104b is Darker than Charcoal” is currently waiting for peer review.
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