SEP 18, 2017 09:55 AM PDT

Hubble Reveals the Light-Absorbing Qualities of a Hot Jupiter-Like Exoplanet

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard
3 2 346

Astronomers from both McGill University in Canada and the University of Exeter in the U.K. used the Hubble Space Telescope to study a hot Jupiter-like exoplanet and found unique circumstances that they’ve never seen before. They've published their findings in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

WASP-12b is so dark that it absorbs over 94% of its host star's light. This makes the exoplanet hotter than most hot Jupiter-like exoplanets.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Dubbed WASP-12b, the exoplanet in question resides in a system about 1,400 light years away from our Sun and is tidally-locked to its host star, WASP-12A, orbiting once every day from approximately 2 million miles away.

These circumstances enable the day side of the exoplanet to reach a scorching 4,600º Fahrenheit – far too hot for clouds and water vapor to exist. Although the night side is around 2,000º Fahrenheit cooler, it’s still incredibly hot.

The researchers describe WASP-12b as a low-albedo exoplanet that's “as black as asphalt.” Its inability to reflect light acts as the primary catalyst behind the mind-boggling heat retention, but the other factors surrounding its existence also play a significant role.

“We did not expect to find such a dark exoplanet,” explained study lead author Taylor Bell from McGill University. “Most hot Jupiters reflect about 40 percent of starlight. This new Hubble research further demonstrates the vast diversity among the strange population of hot Jupiters.”

Related: A collaboration between multiple search groups leads to the discovery of a hot Jupiter-like exoplanet for the first time

In their estimates, reached with the help of Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), they indicate how WASP-12b absorbs up to 94% of the starlight from its host star. For comparison, most hot Jupiter-like exoplanets reflect up to 40% of their host star's light.

It’s so hot on WASP-12b's day side that water vapor-based clouds can't form there. If they could, they would reflect some starlight back into space. Cloud-forming conditions and temperature are each different on the night side, but that's irrelevant since it never faces the star.

Worthy of note, there are a plethora of hot Jupiter-like exoplanets similar to WASP-12b, but many aren't as hot because they don't orbit as closely to their host star.

“You can have planets like WASP-12b that are 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit and some that are 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, and they're both called hot Jupiters,” she continued.

“Past observations of hot Jupiters indicate that the temperature difference between the day and night sides of the planet increases with hotter day sides. This previous research suggests that more heat is being pumped into the day side of the planet, but the processes, such as winds, that carry the heat to the night side of the planet don't keep up the pace.”

Related: Astronomers detect water on a nearby hot Jupiter-like exoplanet

Astronomers first discovered WASP-12b nine years ago. While it has been observed several times previously, these are some of the most detailed spectral observations of the exoplanet to date.

The study highlights the importance of getting a closer look at all the exoplanets we find; even some of those that we've already discovered could be hiding undiscovered secrets.

Source: McGill University

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
APR 13, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
APR 13, 2018
Neutrinos, the "Hot" Dark Matter?
When it comes to dark matter, the elusive existence that is supposed to make up 80% of all matter-energy in the universe, scientists have been scratching t
JUN 25, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUN 25, 2018
NASA Will Study Jupiter's Great Red Spot with the James Webb Space Telescope
Astronomers have been studying Jupiter’s Great Red Spot for decades, and it continues to captivate their attention even today. Several modern observa
JUL 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 09, 2018
Kepler Space Telescope Enters Low Power Mode
The fuel reserves on NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope are running dangerously low, and the space agency is now preparing to download as much of Kepler&r
JUL 27, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 27, 2018
TESS Begins Searching for Exoplanets
NASA, in an official statement this week, announced that its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission had commenced scientific operations on We
JUL 27, 2018
JUL 27, 2018
Ever Wonder Why the Moon Turns Red During A Lunar Eclipse?
Lunar eclipses can be fun to observe, but have you ever wondered why the Moon turns red during the event? As it turns out, this red Moon phenomenon, also k
AUG 13, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 13, 2018
Giant Star Sets Record for Lithium Composition, Researchers Say
While scanning far and wide with the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), astronomers from the National Astronomical Observa
Loading Comments...