Sep 19, 2017

Astronomers find a giant, black, glowing exoplanet

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 β€” 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.

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Syria's darkest chapter

Family room without a family, in Idlib. Photo: Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The worst humanitarian crisis of Syria’s brutal civil war is colliding today with what could be the war’s most dangerous geopolitical showdown, after at least 29 Turkish troops were killed in an airstrike.

The big picture: The fighting is taking place in Idlib in northwest Syria, where a ferocious Syrian and Russian offensive has displaced 1 million civilians and infuriated Turkey, which borders the region.

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Fear of coronavirus pandemic escalates

Photo: Abdulgani Basheer/AFP/Getty Images

In the blink of an eye, we've entered a new phase on the coronavirus.

The big picture: Italy, Iran and South Korea are at "decisive" points in their responses, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Health