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Jupiter-Sized Alien Planet Is Darkest Ever (Barely) Seen 207

Posted by timothy
from the none-more-black dept.
thebchuckster writes "The darkest alien world ever spotted by astronomers has been discovered in the outskirts of our galaxy. 'It's darker than the blackest lump of coal, than dark acrylic paint you might paint with. It's bizarre how this huge planet became so absorbent of all the light that hits it,' David Kipping, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics."
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Jupiter-Sized Alien Planet Is Darkest Ever (Barely) Seen

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  • by Warwick Allison (209388) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:12AM (#37092152) Homepage

    What's happened to /. titling?

  • Is it darker than #000000?

    • by itsdapead (734413)

      Is it darker than #000000?

      Yep, its #FFFFFFFF!

    • Is it blacker than a pot *and* a kettle? [youtube.com]

    • by metacell (523607)

      Technically speaking, the question is meaningless, since...

      1) The #xxxxxx system describes what colour an object displays under specific conditions (for example, lighting), not an object's innate light reflection ability (albedo).
      2) The #xxxxxx system doesn't describe colour on an absolute scale; it only orders colours in an arbitrary space with an arbitrary metric. For example, there's no guarantee that #000002 is twice as bright as #000001, and there's no guarantee that #000000 is absolute black. Even whe

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:16AM (#37092168)

    Is it that big evil thing from the Fifth Element? Do we need four stones to make it fire a a giant Laser beam at it? Is it going to make evil people leak black tar?

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Ghetti Prime. Now, where's Arakkis?

      • by Rennt (582550)
        Giedi Prime, maybe?
        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Giedi Prime is an industrial wasteland with a low photosynthetic potential, the planet's bio-resources depleted and its environment fouled with industrial pollution.[4] Rich in mineral resources, the economy of the planet is based on mining, refineries, and industrial manufacture. In Dune, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and his heirs live in the "family city of Harko."[4]

          Due to its ravaged environment, Giedi Prime has to import almost all of its requirement of organic products.

          Arrakis (pronounced /É(TM)

          • by Rennt (582550)
            Weird... what is the point of the bold-emphasis? I mean, you cocked up the spelling of Arrakis too ;)
            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              The original question I asked, "Where is Arrakis"; the bold answers that. And the word "Arrakis" is neither in my spell checker nor my dictionary, and I haven't read Dune in years, and I don't have the books with me now. It's not like Arrakis us real, even though its star is (and according to Wikipedia I doubt if it were there that it would be the least bit habitable).

    • by cvtan (752695)
      +5 points for Fifth Element reference.
    • Aziz! Light!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    fear of a black planet!

  • That's no moon.
  • artificial (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darth Cider (320236) on Monday August 15, 2011 @04:42AM (#37092256)

    Maybe it's a Dyson sphere [wikipedia.org].

    • Re:artificial (Score:5, Informative)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:02AM (#37092322) Homepage

      But in that case it would encapsulate the star - not circle it.

      • by maxwell demon (590494) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:10AM (#37092370) Journal

        But in that case it would encapsulate the star - not circle it.

        Yeah, that's what the engineers told the management, too. But the management didn't believe it. So they built it around the planet instead.

      • by GNious (953874)

        Would it be possibly to build a Dyson Sphere around a single star in a binary system?
        Really, I'd like to know :) Am thinking it would be an order of magnitude harder (gravitational shear being 1 possible impediment), but could be? Then covering it is something to absorb sunlight from the other star could make sense ....

        • by Jamu (852752)
          I'd guess that the largest problem would be tidal forces, although with a strong enough, or flexible enough, material, this could be overcome. Otherwise, if the stars were far enough apart, and the Dyson Sphere small enough, it would be possible to minimise the tidal forces from the external star.
        • by itsdapead (734413)

          Would it be possibly to build a Dyson Sphere around a single star in a binary system?

          Anything is possible with enough unobtanium, artificial gravity (unless you spin it up to ludicrous speed to make gravity - see Ringworld) and matter transmutation (if you believe the words of thousand-year-old ship's prostitutes).

          Seriously, come back and ask that question when we know how to build a Dyson sphere around a single sun.

          Anyway, I thought the original "Dyson sphere" concept was actually a cloud of satellites dense enough to capture all of the solar energy, rather than the rigid sci-fi version

      • Re:artificial (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:53AM (#37092496)

        I'm sure there is a major flaw in the following hypothesis, but couldn't there be a "dyson sphere" around a planet for different reasons? Dyson Spheres are built around a star as a hypothetical optimal method of complete solar harvesting.

        What if a species not quite that advanced built such a shell around their own world? One flaw is how to best simulate their sun for grass/animals. Holes in the sphere? A series of lights, or a few on a track, that go around the world as needed? It would work best if the species were nocturnal (either by natural or "artificial" evolution at this point). Considering this is "Jupiter sized" then this thing would have enough room for twenty-two Earths to go from one end to another at the equator. There could be a whole planet and moon system inside.

        That much surface area and they might be able to easily simulate their sun on planet for wildlife and then some. According to Wikipedia Jupiter's surface area: 6.1419×1010 km2. Cut that in half since even if the sphere doesn't rotate half of it will be facing their sun, and you have the maximum usable space for solar cells or whatever they are using instead. How much energy would that produce? Unless this thing is a relic left behind, they might not need a full blown Dyson Sphere yet.

        According to the article it is in that star's habital zone. So it is in the right spot if it were a converted habital world. Dyson Sphere may not be the correct term, but the concept itself completely off from what could be here.

        Then again, it could be the universe's largest naturally formed piece of coal or we discovered the home hub of the all consuming nanite swarm.

        • One flaw is how to best simulate their sun for grass/animals.

          Let the light in and keep it there. No sun substitute required.

        • >A series of lights, or a few on a track, that go around the world as needed?

          That's how the Shell World 'Sursamen' in Ian M Banks' book 'Matter' operates. He called the suns Roll Stars.

        • One flaw is how to best simulate their sun for grass/animals.

          Maybe that is the problem that they were trying to solve: their sun may have evolved to produce more visible light than what they needed, but they still needed the thermal energy. So they paint the sphere black to absorb the heat but not the visible light.

        • by MrKaos (858439)

          I'm sure there is a major flaw in the following hypothesis, but couldn't there be a "dyson sphere" around a planet for different reasons?

          That's ridiculous! Anyone who knows anything knows that it is a massive computing devices connected to itself across quantum realities and powering itself from the entropy that exists at the end of the universe which it uses to generate random numbers for a interstellar casino.

          Don't you know ANYTHING!!!

        • by stms (1132653)

          There is a flaw in the Dyson Sphere concept too it's that to create a (solar) Dyson Sphere it would require more matter than in a given solar system. Which means (amusing you can't create matter from energy extremely efficiently) would need to transport matter from another solar system to complete it likely needing to destroy at least one other star in the process. So unless a Society has settled and depleted every solar system in the galaxy it's more efficient to move part of your society to another solar

          • by Toonol (1057698)
            So unless a Society has settled and depleted every solar system in the galaxy it's more efficient to move part of your society to another solar system (think Firefly).

            I'm not sure about that. A Dyson sphere has the inhabitable space of 500 millions earths. Are you sure that there are that many inhabitable planets in our galaxy?

            I imagine that a Dyson Sphere would be constructed by mining one star of a close binary star system. I'll leave the details to the engineers.
            • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

              If you can build a Dyson sphere to live on, you sure as hell can terraform existing rocky planets or build your own.

              • by tragedy (27079)

                For that matter, as long as we're doing solar system scale engineering, split the difference between making Dyson spheres and planets and make lots of orbitals [wikipedia.org], which are mini Dyson rings. They can achieve the living area of a planet and simulate the gravity of one with a tiny fraction of the material. As for the sun, forget about collecting its energy, just kill it. Once we've stopped the wasteful runaway fusion going on inside the sun, we can mine it for hydrogen to power our fusion reactors and only prod

          • by khallow (566160)

            There is a flaw in the Dyson Sphere concept too it's that to create a (solar) Dyson Sphere it would require more matter than in a given solar system.

            Why would you need much matter? A cloud of solar panels, orbiting the Sun well within the orbit of Mercury (which would be providing the mass source for the satellites) would do the job.

            At a sphere one million km in radius centered on the Sun (which as I understand is cool enough that some materials can stay solid indefinitely), Mercury would provide roughly 26 metric tons of mass per square meter of the sphere. Needless to say, you don't need that much mass per square meter and you have plenty of room e

        • Maybe the occupants of the planet realize the planet's spin was slowing down and they were becoming tidally locked with their sun like our moon is with us.

          Instead of baking one side of the planet and freezing the other they built a Dyson Sphere and created their own internal day/night cycle.

        • by Noren (605012)
          There's a simpler and more paranoid explanation available. This is an alien home planet, and it's actually emitting huge amounts of various types of light. Our astronomical instruments, however, have been hacked to not show any of that- we're not supposed to know about alien civilizations, as it would stunt our development. Somealien didn't think this through and simply removed all the light from our data on that planet, resulting in an anomalously dark appearance. It's a software bug. Perhaps it'll be
        • by guruevi (827432)

          What they could've done (and any advanced enough civilization is capable of this) is let their lives be simulated. First they started hooking up to the machines for fun and vacation, then they started getting addicted, then everybody got on it and this required more and more energy to simulate the world and to take the input of the connected individuals. Eventually the energy requirements required first a partial, then the war came for the resources that were left in the sunlight. Then they built a full Dys

      • Dyson spheres do not, by definition "encapsulate" a star... read up on them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere
    • by splutty (43475)

      The problem with that being that a Dyson sphere needs to be completely light absorbent on the *inside*, the outside really doesn't matter, although in this case it being light absorbent on the outside would also capture an insignificant amount of light from the primary.

      Always assuming it's a binary system with one star being encapsulated.

      In an SF context, that even makes some modicum of sense, in that you'd still have an actual sun and all...

  • if you would be so close to the sun, you would be scorched black too!
  • It's inhabited by aliens. They have almost perfected solar power, just like the asteroid in Ender's Game.
  • Kardashev (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dik Zak (974638) on Monday August 15, 2011 @05:27AM (#37092416)
    It's also hot in infrared. Isn't this exactly what you would expect to see from a planet with a Kardashev level 1 civilisation?
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Muad'Dave (255648)

      Isn't this exactly what you would expect to see from a planet with a Kardashev level 1 civilisation?

      I'd expect to see needy drama queens on a planet with a Kardashian [wikipedia.org] level 1 civilization.

  • Maybe it's a red giant remnant (carbon core)?
    • by hubie (108345)
      Sadly, as I write this there are about 160 comments and I think yours is the first on-topic one I saw that wasn't trying to be witty.
  • Maybe it's from 2001 "All the monoliths are black, extremely flat, non-reflective rectangular solids."
    I remember Arthur C. Clarke's description of the blackness quite well, I'm thinking it was written slightly better than the summaries description of black.
    Unfortunately I don't have the book with me.

  • by arcctgx (607542) on Monday August 15, 2011 @07:49AM (#37093098)

    TFA is wrong, the planet was discovered from a ground-based observatory back in 2006: http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0609335 [arxiv.org]

  • There was a manga years ago called 2001 Nights. It was a Sci-Fi anthology with a Kubrick/Clark 2001 influence.

    In one of the stories a "10th Planet" is discovered in our solar system given the name Lucifer. It orbits our sun in a retrograde orbit (it goes the opposite direction of the other planets) and takes 666 years to complete an orbit. It's also the largest gas giant surpassing Jupiter. A mission to study the planet is launched and a number of tragic accidents befall the crew.

    It was the first thing I

  • Maybe it's surface is made of polished platinum.. I jest, but I swear that stuff messes with my eyes; on one hand, it's shiny, but on the other, it's dark, almost black, and seems to just suck up light.
  • Camouflage, possible cloaking device. When you exist in a big black background, and you don't want anyone to find your home world, as the song says, "Paint it Black".

    Of course one has to ask what sort of species takes such drastic action to hide themselves.

    Is this a case of puppeteers, or simply stealthy invaders?

     

  • darkest? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sperbels (1008585) on Monday August 15, 2011 @01:29PM (#37097208)
    Please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I was under the impression that we've never seen any of the light reflected by a planet outside of our solar system. I thought the only methods of planet detection we currently have were to see the light it blocks from its host star, or to see the pull it has on its host star.
  • We can find planets but, we cannot feed ours, find a better source of limitless fuel, operate a world without currency or sustain economies on programs other than war.

    No wonder other planets refuse to respond to our SETI calls.

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