It may be hard to imagine a planet blacker than coal, but that's what astronomers say they've discovered in our home galaxy with NASA's Kepler space telescope.
Orbiting only about three million miles out from its star, the Jupiter-size gas giant planet, dubbed TrES-2b, is heated to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (980 degrees Celsius). Yet the apparently inky world appears to reflect almost none of the starlight that shines on it, according to a new study.
"Being less reflective than coal or even the blackest acrylic paint—this makes it by far the darkest planet ever discovered," lead study author David Kipping said.
"If we could see it up close it would look like a near-black ball of gas, with a slight glowing red tinge to it—a true exotic amongst exoplanets," added Kipping, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Earth-orbiting Kepler spacecraft was specifically designed to find planets outside our solar system. But at such distances—TrES-2b, for instance, is 750 light-years from us—it's not as simple as snapping pictures of alien worlds.
Instead, Kepler—using light sensors called photometers that continuously monitor tens of thousands of stars—looks for the regular dimming of stars.