WASP-12b… it may not sound like anything special, yet this exoplanet might be one of the more interesting orbiting bodies out there. Not only is it massive in size, researchers have discovered that WASP-12b possesses an unusual light-eating ability.
Discovered back in 2008, WASP-12b is almost twice the size of Jupiter yet orbits extremely close to its star, only 2 million miles away. In fact, the planet’s year takes just over one Earth day to complete. To put that in perspective, Mercury, the closest planet to our sun orbits every 88 days.
The distant world belongs to a category of planets called “hot Jupiters.” Named after our own gas giant, these cloudy worlds reach extremely hot temperatures due to their close orbits. How extreme? About 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit on the daylight side. That is certainly hot enough to roast a marshmallow, along with the person wanting to enjoy the marshmallow.
According to recent findings published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters , WASP-12b possesses an extremely low “albedo;” meaning it reflects very little light. This particular hot Jupiter is one of the darkest planetary objects ever identified, reflecting light at only six percent. Because WASP-12b absorbs the light around, it appears pitch-black. Researchers have described the planet as “black as fresh asphalt.”
“There are other hot Jupiters that have been found to be remarkably black, but they are much cooler than WASP-12b,” explains lead author Taylor Bell. “For those planets, it is suggested that things like clouds and alkali metals are the reason for the absorption of light, but those don’t work for WASP-12b because it is so incredibly hot.”
In other words, this is not a planet you would want to visit.