This past week, on June 27, astronomers and space enthusiasts were watching online the first ever live observation of a planet outside of our Solar System as it passes across the face of its home star (transit).
This exoplanet is named TrES-2b, but is nicknamed the much sexier Dark Knight which makes most people think of a modern-day Batman.
I probably post more about space than many followers of this blog care to read, but that last really unexplored frontier is so mysteriously interesting. I can’t fully explain this fascination which, to me, seems so naturally human. You can hear something of this interest in science by a non-scientist if you listen to this this episode of On Being, “Mysteries of an Expanding Universe.”
Mario Livio works with discoveries made from the Hubble Telescope and studies dark energy, extrasolar planets, and white dwarf stars. He’s fascinated, as am I, with the enduring mystery of mathematics and cosmic puzzles hidden in the language of science. Is God a mathematician?
An exoplanet or extrasolar planet is a planet that orbits a star other than the Sun, a stellar remnant, or a brown dwarf. Nearly 2000 exoplanets have been discovered. This Dark Knight is the darkest exoplanet yet discovered. It is so nicknamed because it only reflects 1% of the light that falls on it.
Distances and numbers in space can’t really be grasped by most humans. Orbiting only about three million miles out from its star, the Jupiter-size gas giant planet is heated to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (980 degrees Celsius). Jupiter is extremely cold, the Dark Knight is hot enough to vaporize many metals and molecules.
TrES-2 system is a binary star system, which should resonate with Star Wars fans as two rising Suns recalls Tatooine.