HD 209458 b
In the illustration of the planetary system the relative sizes of the star, the planet, and the orbit are depicted accurately. The first plot shows how the light flux from the system is decreasing during the occultation (when the planets goes behind the star). The second plot shows how the corresponding light curve would have looked like had the planet been as reflective as Jupiter.


The measurement shows that the planet reflects only 10%, which is comparable to asphalt and less than one fifth as much light as Jupiter. This confirms a 22 year old prediction that hot Jupiters like this should be dark. That the planet is so dark is thought to be due to the combination of Rayleigh scattering of light in the hydrogen atmosphere combined with efficient absorption by gaseous sodium. Since blue light is less efficiently absorbed by sodium this will give the reflected light a blue colour.

The study is published by Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters (659, L4) and led by Alexis Brandeker at the Department of Astronomy, Stockholm University, also including Göran Olofsson at the same institute.

Contact: Alexis Brandeker, alexis(at)astro.su.se