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Alien World is Blacker than Coal
08.11.2011
Artists's conception of Alien World is Blacker than Coal.
The distant exoplanet TrES-2b, shown here in an artist's conception, is darker than the blackest coal. This Jupiter-sized world reflects less than one percent of the light that falls on it, making it blacker than any planet or moon in our solar system. Astronomers aren't sure what vapors in the planet's superheated atmosphere cloak it so effectively.
Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA).

Release No. 2011-21, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA. Excerpt: Astronomers have discovered the darkest known exoplanet - a distant, Jupiter-sized gas giant known as TrES-2b. Their measurements show that TrES-2b reflects less than one percent of the sunlight falling on it, making it blacker than coal or any planet or moon in our solar system.

"TrES-2b is considerably less reflective than black acrylic paint, so it's truly an alien world," said astronomer David Kipping of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), lead author on the paper reporting the research.

..."It's not clear what is responsible for making this planet so extraordinarily dark," stated co-author David Spiegel of Princeton University. "However, it's not completely pitch black. It's so hot that it emits a faint red glow, much like a burning ember or the coils on an electric stove."
Kipping and Spiegel determined the reflectivity of TrES-2b using data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft. Kepler is designed to measure the brightnesses of distant stars with extreme precision.

The team monitored the brightness of the TrES-2 system as the planet orbited its star. They detected a subtle dimming and brightening due to the planet's changing phase. ..."By combining the impressive precision from Kepler with observations of over 50 orbits, we detected the smallest-ever change in brightness from an exoplanet: just 6 parts per million," said Kipping. "In other words, Kepler was able to directly detect visible light coming from the planet itself."

The extremely small fluctuations proved that TrES-2b is incredibly dark. A more reflective world would have shown larger brightness variations as its phase changed.....

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