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Darkest Planet

September 1, 2011

Scientists have identified the darkest known extrasolar planet.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A pitch-black alien world. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists recently identified the darkest known planet. It’s a gas giant about the size of Jupiter, 750 light-years from Earth. David Kipping of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics led the team. Using data from the NASA Kepler spacecraft, they found that the planet reflects less than 1 percent of the light that hits it.

DAVID KIPPING: (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics):

This is a very strange object. It’s darker than coal; it’s darker than black acrylic paint. And it kind of raises an interesting mystery as to what can make a Jupiter-sized planet become so dark.

HIRSHON:

The planet’s extremely hot – an estimated 1800 degrees Fahrenheit – which limits the kind of atmosphere it can support. Kipping says it may contain highly light-absorbing chemicals, like vaporized sodium and potassium. But even that can’t fully account for how dark it is – so he suspects there may be exotic chemistry involved that scientists have yet to understand. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.