Dark Exoplanet WASP-12b Devours 94 Percent Of Visible Starlight

An exoplanet located beyond our solar system observed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope appears as black as asphalt because it “eats” light rather than reflecting it back into space, new research suggests. This light-eating ability is due to the planet’s unique prowess at trapping at least 94 percent of the visible starlight falling into its atmosphere. The oddball exoplanet, called WASP-12b, is one of a class of so-called “hot Jupiters,” gigantic, gaseous planets that orbit very close to their host star and are heated to extreme temperatures. [Read More]

Ultracool Dwarf Star Harbors 3 Potentially Habitable Worlds

Three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth have been discovered by Astronomers using the TRAPPIST telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory. The worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the Solar System. They are also the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star. [Read More]

Range of Earth-like Planets Modeled By Astronomers

Computer models that examine how ultraviolet radiation from other planets’ nearby suns may affect those worlds, have been developed by a team of astronomers, in order to sort out the biological intricacies of Earth-like planets. Lisa Kaltenegger, Cornell associate professor of astronomy and the director of Cornell’s new Carl Sagan Institute: Pale Blue Dot and Beyond, said: “Depending on the intensity, ultraviolet radiation can be both useful and harmful to the origin of life. [Read More]

First Exoplanet Rotation Clocks in at 8 hour Day

The rotation rate of an exoplanet has been determined, for the first time ever, by observations made from the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Beta Pictoris b’s day lasts only eight hours, much quicker than any planet in the Solar System. The exoplanet’s equator is moving at almost 100,000 kilometres per hour. This result applies the relation between mass and rotation seen in our Solar System to exoplanets. Beta Pictoris b, also known as HD 39060, SAO 234134 and HIP 27321, orbits around the star Beta Pictoris, about 63 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Pictor. [Read More]