Coal-Black Alien Planet Is Darkest Ever Seen

An alien world blacker than coal, the darkest planet known, has been discovered in the galaxy.

The world in question is a giant the size of Jupiter known as TrES-2b. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft detected it lurking around the yellow sun-like star GSC 03549-02811 some 750 light years away in the direction of the constellation Draco.

The researchers found this gas giant reflects less than 1 percent of the sunlight falling on it, making it darker than any planet or moon seen up to now. [The Strangest Alien Planets]

“It’s just ridiculous how dark this planet is, how alien it is compared to anything we have in our solar system,” study lead-author David Kipping, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told SPACE.com. “It’s darker than the blackest lump of coal, than dark acrylic paint you might paint with. It’s bizarre how this huge planet became so absorbent of all the light that hits it.”

Whereas Jupiter has clouds streaking it white and red, reflecting more than a third of the sunlight reaching it, TrES-2b apparently lacks reflective clouds, super-heated as its atmosphere is to more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (980 degrees Celsius) by a star just 3.1 million miles (5 million kilometers) away from it.

“However, it’s not completely pitch black,” co-author David Spiegel of Princeton University said in a statement. “It’s so hot that it emits a faint red glow, much like a burning ember or the coils on an electric stove.”

The researchers propose that light-absorbing chemicals such as vaporized sodium and potassium or gaseous titanium oxide in the planet’s atmosphere could help explain why it is so dark. Still, none of these can fully explain why the world is as stealthily cloaked as it is.

“It’s a mystery as to what’s causing it to be so dark,” Kipping said. “There’s a good chance it’s a chemical we haven’t even thought of yet.”

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