By Elton Gomes
In what is being dubbed as the darkest celestial body ever discovered, scientists have found a planet that is so dark it absorbs almost 99% of light around it through a dense layer of haze.
The new planet named WASP-104b is being compared to charcoal and is one of the darkest planets discovered to date. On April 15, researchers from Keele University, UK submitted a paper to the Cornell University Library that depicted how dark the WASP-104b can be.
The researchers used data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The planet’s reflective clouds have burnt off due to extreme proximity to its host star. This is the reason why the WASP-104b has a hazy layer that is thick with potassium and sodium atoms that absorb all light around it.
All you need to know about WASP-104B
The WASP-104b is a type of planet known as a Hot Jupiter. Hot Jupiters are gas giants that have masses similar to that of Jupiter and stay close to their stars, orbiting them in lesser than 10 days.
A characteristic property of Hot Jupiters is that they are relatively dark, with most of them reflecting 40% of the starlight that reaches them.
WASP-104b has a similar size as that of Jupiter, and absorbs 97 to 99% of light, making it “one of the least reflective planets found to date.”
A report in Tech Times mentioned that WASP-104b is so close to its host star that it can orbit around it in a span of 1.75 days. The planet is at a distance of 2.6 million miles from the star which in space terms is considered to be extremely close.
Teo Mocnik, co-author of the paper and astrophysicist, said that of all the planets discovered, the WASP-104b can be considered to be among the top three darkest planets.
Dark planets similar to WASP-104b have been discovered in the past. Tech Times reported that in 2011, TrES-2b was discovered, which orbited roughly three million miles from its host star. TrES-2b was found to reflect only one percent of the light in its direction. Similarly, WASP-12b appeared to trap at least 94 percent of starlight that appeared in its direction, as reported by Tech Times.
Why you should care
Although astronomers might not have found a planet that has Earth-like conditions, the simple task of exploration and finding out that things are different from one’s expectations is integral to space research.
The universe is a complex and gargantuan body, and exploring it helps us answer several unanswered questions. We seem to have traversed only a small part of our galaxy, and it seems that we have a lot to explore.
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