The Darkest Planet Known To Man

By Nolan Moore on Sunday, June 1, 2014
TrES-2b
“Darkness of slumber and death, forever sinking and sinking.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline

In A Nutshell

TrES-2b sounds like something ripped straight out of a sci-fi movie. It’s the darkest planet we’ve ever discovered, reflecting hardly any light from its nearby star. On top of that, parts of the planet glow dark red because the place is so darn hot. In other words, it isn’t exactly habitable.

The Whole Bushel

Afraid of the dark? Then you probably shouldn’t visit TrES-2b. Other than the fact that it’s a gigantic ball of super hot gas that’s over 750 light-years away from Earth and totally devoid of breathable air, it’s also blacker than any substance known to man. Your nightlight will not save you.

Discovered in 2011 by the space observatory Kepler, TrES-2b is located outside of the Solar System, 4.8 million kilometers (3 million mi) away from its star. It’s roughly the size of Jupiter, and with a temperature of 980 degrees Celsius (1,800 °F), TrES-2B is perfect for escaping the cold of deep space . . . permanently. Despite the heat, TrES-2b is the darkest planet ever discovered. Sure, certain parts glow a deep red, similar to burning coals, but for the most part, the planet is blacker than the blackest acrylic paint.

This completely and utterly soul-crushing darkness is thanks to the planet’s low albedo. What is albedo, you ask? It’s the amount of light reflected off a surface. Whereas the Earth’s albedo is around 30 percent and the sun is close to 100 percent, TrES-2b only reflects 1 percent of the light from its nearby star. And scientists aren’t exactly sure why. Well, they know it has something to do with TrES-2b’s lack of clouds. While a planet like Jupiter has ammonia clouds to reflect sunlight, TrES-2b is just too hot for clouds to form. As for the planet’s atmosphere, researchers believe it might be made up of light-absorbing chemicals like gaseous sodium, potassium, or gaseous titanium oxide . . . or maybe something so rare researchers haven’t even thought of it yet. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for scientists to finish building the James Webb Space Telescope before we can finally figure out what’s really going on TrES-2b. Until then, we’re all just going to be in the dark.

Show Me The Proof

Featured image credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
National Geographic: Darkest Planet Found: Coal-Black, It Reflects Almost No Light
TIME: The Blackest Planet in the Universe
Space.com: Coal-Black Alien Planet Is Darkest Ever Seen