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Watch alien planet Dark Knight's rare show from last night

Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Saturday, June 27, 2015, 7:33 PM - For the first time ever you can experience the live transit of an exoplanet in space from one of the largest infrared telescopes on Earth.

Slooh, an astronomy team based in Washington Depot, Connecticut, broadcasts free live celestial events from partner observatories around the world. The organization partnered with the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) to bring the world real-time views of the transit of exoplanet TrES2-b, otherwise known as 'Dark Knight.' It is the darkest known planet ever found. Dark Knight is also twice as big as Jupiter, yet 10 times closer to its host star than Mercury is to our sun, according to Slooh.

This event took place live at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday thanks to the 5 -t Carlos Sanchez Telescope located in the Canary Islands. You can replay the event in the player above.

Courtesy: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

People from around the globe had the opportunity to watch Dark Knight cross its host star. As the planet tracked in front of the star, astronomers gave a real-time play-by-play of what exactly was happening.

"The telescope will be looking at all the light that comes from the star and it's going to be tracking how much light is blocked once the planet crosses. We will see this dip, this curve that will appear in the amount of light that we see," Eric Edelman, producer and host for Slooh, explained before the show.

Dark Knight began to cross in front of its star 28 minutes into the live broadcast, and ended its journey exactly one hour and 30 minutes later.

This transit is unique because normally it takes a few hours to process the data post-transit in order to develop a curve, whereas Slooh experts will process the light curve in as much real-time as they can, Edelman said.

Edelman was joined by Slooh astronomer Bob Berman and they talked about exoplanets and the search for life with the director of the Carl Sagen Institute, Dr. Lisa Kaltenegger and senior astronomer at Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Dr. Seth Shostak. Viewers asked questions and participated by using the Twitter hashtag #DarkKnightTransits.

"We are excited to show different points in the universe and space and what it all means to anybody that is intrigued and curious about watching life outside," Edelman said before the show.

Dark Knight is located in the constellation of Draco in the northern hemisphere. It's about 750 light years away, explained Edelman. The planet is considered a 'hot Jupiter,' due to it being so close to its host star and size.

"It's a species of planets that we've been finding out in other star systems that we don't see in our own star system. There are a lot of unique planets that are really foreign from what we are used to."

It is also the darkest planet Slooh has ever found, reflecting less than one per cent of the light that hits it. To put this into perspective, Dark Knight reflects less light than coal, Edelman explained.

"It's severely, severely dark and we are trying to find out exactly why that is."

Exoplanets are planets that orbit a star other than the sun. With the help of new technology, the number of exoplanets discovered have increased dramatically over the past decade. There are now more than 900 exoplanets confirmed, according to the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona.

"Planets around other stars hold great excitement for researchers and the public alike," Berman said. "Few if any are more weird and alien than the Dark Knight, whose passage across the face of its parent star is both scientifically instructive, and captivating to watch -- especially live, in real-time."

Source: Slooh | University of Arizona | Live stream 

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