- Scientists have discovered a ‘pitch black’ planet 470 light-years away that absorbs 99 per cent of light, making it one of the darkest planets ever found.
- The planet, named WASP-104b, was discovered by researchers from Keele University in the UK, who used NASA’s Kepler telescope to show that it is ‘darker than charcoal.’
- This is one of the darkest planets ever discovered – reflecting very little light from its host star.
- WASP-104b is interesting because it was not even seen.
- All planets reflect starlight from their host star.
- Some planets are highly reflective, such as Venus reflecting 70 per cent of the light, while some others reflect only 10 per cent.
‘Hot Jupiter’ planet
- The planet was discovered orbiting a yellow dwarf star some 470 light-years away from us in the constellation Leo, and is categorised as a ‘hot Jupiter’ planet.
- Hot Jupiters are gas giant planets of a similar mass to Jupiter, but are located much closer to their host stars – making them very hot. WASP-104b is so close to its host star (at around 2.6 million miles) it takes just 1.76 days to complete its orbit.
- This proximity to its host star may be the reason the planet is so dark – as conditions are too hot for clouds (which are highly reflective) to form, researchers said.
- The lack of light being reflected from the planet may also be attributed to the presence of alkali metals such as sodium and potassium in a ‘hazy’ atmosphere, which causes significant absorption of light in the visual wavelengths “Since WASP-104b is one of the least-reflective planets known to date, it will serve as a test bed for atmospheric models.