Discovered: A VERY Dark Exoplanet, Which Reflects Just 1% Of Incident Radiation
By on August 13th, 2011

It’s dark out there, really dark out there. Astronomers have stumbled upon an object which reflects just 1% of the incident radiation and absorbs 99%. It is the darkest astronomical body found. Not only that, it is the darkest object known to man even surpassing carbon nanotubes, which can be prepared to be extra dark. It does emit a faint reddish glow, though.

An artist's rendition of the dark planet. (Courtesy: David A. Augilar)

About the Oddity

The size of the planet is more than Jupiter’s, but orbits the central star at a distance of just 3 million miles, more than 30 times closer than the distance between Earth and Sun. It orbits a star named GSC 03549-02811, which is located 750 light years away. It is one of the so called Kepler Planets, discovered and now being viewed by the Kepler spacecraft.

Comparison in size of TrES-2b with Jupiter (Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons)

In comparison to this planet, Earth reflects about 35% of its radiation. Venus reflects the highest amongst all the Solar System, reflecting about 65% of the total incident radiation.

It’s Hot too!

The new object, exotically named TrES-2b or Kepler-1b, has a record 1800 Degree Celsius as its surface temperature, due to the intense greenhouse effects produced by the thick heat-absorbing atmosphere. The atmosphere contains sodium, potassium and titanium oxide, which all help in the absorption. The effect is a runaway heating of the planet, somewhat balanced only by the amount of heat radiated by the clouds into space. The high temperature also prevents ammonia clouds from forming, which would have helped in the reflection. This is a really greenhouse planet.

This is the first time such an extreme object has been discovered. Despite the atmospheric composition, astronomers cannot justify how such a planet can exist. Here’s another juicy, dark mystery for science.

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Author: Debjyoti Bardhan Google Profile for Debjyoti Bardhan
Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.

Debjyoti Bardhan has written and can be contacted at debjyoti@techie-buzz.com.
 
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