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WASP-12b compared to Jupiter. Image credit: Aldaron / Wikipedia

The extra-solar planet ("exoplanet") known as WASP-12b is perhaps the strangest world found yet. While known for almost a decade, astronomers recently observed it during an eclipse, allowing them to measure its reflectivity (or albedo) for the first time.

What they saw: Surprisingly, WASP-12b has only half the albedo of the Moon, and about 1/6th that of the Earth, meaning it reflects very little light.

It doesn't end there — the exoplanet is twice as large as Jupiter and orbits 16 times closer than Mercury does around the sun.This proximity heats WASP-12b to almost 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that despite its blackness it glows deep red like a massive gaseous charcoal briquette.

The bottom line: The variety of worlds we're finding in the galaxy far surpasses even the wildest sci-fi stories, and is providing insight into the range of physics and chemistry in the universe.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

8 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.