We all know that space is weird as it is – its mysteriousness is precisely the reason why people were fascinated with the night sky and space exploration since the beginning of life on Earth. There are things there that are beyond our comprehension and that defy our traditional laws of physics. Hence, no matter how hard we try to understand and explain our vast universe, there will always be mysteries out there that are yet to be unraveled.
Internet user Anthony Hackett has compiled a list of the most mysterious and weirdest exoplanets – planets outside our solar system. Other internet users have also jumped in and extended the list with possibly habitable planets. Scroll down for a low-key space travel and check these astonishing celestial bodies and what makes them fascinating.
J1407b – An Exomoon Or A “Saturn On Steroids”
J1407b has been referred to as a “Saturn on steroids” or “Super Saturn” due to its massive system of circumplanetary rings about 640 times the one of Saturn’s rings.
It is an exoplanet located 434 light years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus and is the only known exoplanet with rings similar to Saturn. If this planet swapped places with Saturn, its rings would dominate the Earth’s sky and would appear many times larger than a full moon. There is a large gap halfway through the ring system and it’s possible that a Mars-sized exomoon orbits the planet within this gap. If there are any aliens living on this exomoon, then they have an extraordinary view looking up into the sky.
Gliese 581c – A Potentially Habitable Exoplanet
Gliese 581c is an exoplanet located 20 light years or 120 trillion miles (192 trillion kilometers) from Earth in the constellation of Libra. The planet orbits its star at a distance of 6.8 million miles (around 10.9 million kilometers), only 7% of the 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) distance between the Earth and the Sun. Gliese 581c is tidally locked, meaning that one side of the planet always faces the star and the other side never does— the near side is experiencing scorching temperatures which would instantly melt you alive, while the far side experiences freezing temperatures that would instantly turn you into a frozen snowman. Between these two extremes, however, is a narrow strip of land with better conditions that could theoretically support alien life. In 2008, we sent a radio message at Gliese 581c which is expected to reach the planet in 2029.
Gj 1214b – The Waterworld
It is the most likely known candidate for being an ocean planet. GJ 1214b has no land, but only oceans that stretch all over the surface.
If it is a water world, it could possibly be thought of as a bigger and hotter version of Jupiter’s Galilean moon Europa.
Gliese 436b – A Planet Defying The Laws Of Physics
Gliese 436b is an exoplanet located 30 light years from Earth in the constellation of Leo and seems to defy the laws of Physics. This planet orbits its star at a distance 15 times closer than Mercury is to the sun and the icy surface is roasting at a temperature of 439 °C (822 °F). So how does ice of all things remain completely solid at 439 degrees above its melting point? Because the gravity is so incredibly strong that it compresses the trace amounts of water vapor in the planet’s atmosphere into solid ice and prevents it from melting, no matter how much it burns.
One orbit around the star takes only about 2 days, 15.5 hours.
55 Cancri E – A Diamond Planet
55 Cancri E is only about 40 light-years away from us in the Cancer constellation. It is twice the size of Earth but is nearly 8 times more massive and twice as dense. The parent star has much more carbon than our own sun, and the mass of the planet is thought to be largely carbon. Due to the pressure and average maximum surface temperature of 4417 °F (2400 °C), this ‘super-Earth’ is believed to be covered with diamonds.
It is so close to its parent star it takes a mere 18 hours for the planet to complete a full orbit.
Hat-P-7b – Where It Rains Rubies And Sapphires
HAT-P-7b is located in the Cygnus constellation, about 1000 light years away from Earth.
On the night side of this exoplanet, high precipitation of aluminium oxide (corundum) is found in the atmosphere. Because corundum gems are rubies and sapphires, one can describe the hypothetical weather on the planet’s night side as ‘raining rubies & sapphires’. The planet also suffers from violent storms, so it’s likely that these rubies and sapphires are scattered planet-wide.
Psr J1719–1483 B – Orbits Around A Pulsar
This planet orbits a pulsar, or extremely compact and dense neutron star that is about the size of a large city. This one has a diameter of 12 miles (19 kilometers), but its mass is 1.4 times the mass of the Sun. Another thing about pulsars is that they rotate quickly. Therefore, this planet has an orbital period of 2 hours.
Hd 189733b – Where It Rains Glass
HD 189773b is slightly larger than Jupiter in our solar system, and is located about 62 light years away from Earth.
The planet gets its deep, beautiful azure color from the planet’s strange atmosphere which is actually made up mostly of silicate atoms and particles. The wind speeds on the planet can actually reach as high as 5,400 miles per hour, which is actually around 2 kilometers per second (or over seven times faster than the speed of sound). Temperatures can also reach way over 900 °C (1652 °F) on the planet.
What is horrid and frightening about this planet is that it literally rains glass sideways along with unbearably fast winds. If this exact storm were somehow to occur at the equator on Earth, it would travel all the way around the Earth in just a mere five and a half hours.
Wasp-12b – A Planet That’s Eating Up Light
WASP-12b is one of the darkest known exoplanets — the day side of the planet eats light rather than reflects it into space. The exoplanet, which is twice the size of Jupiter, has the unique capability to trap at least 94 percent of the visible starlight falling into its atmosphere. The temperature of the atmosphere is a seething 4,600 °F (8,312 °C).
The day side hoards all the visible light because it always faces its star. The planet orbits so close to its host that it has fixed day and night sides. WASP-12b completes an orbit once a day. The night side is much cooler, with temperatures roughly 2,200 °F (3,992 °C), which allows water vapor and clouds to form. A swirl of material from the planet’s super-heated atmosphere is spilling onto its star.
This oddball exoplanet is one of a class of so-called “hot Jupiters” that orbit very close to their host star and are heated to enormous temperatures.
Gj-504b – The Pink Planet
This beautiful pink, or should I say magenta, colored exoplanet is the resident of Virgo constellation. Its name is Gliese 504 b (but often referred to as GJ-504b) and it orbits its star at nearly nine times the distance Jupiter orbits the sun.
One interesting characteristic of this planet is—it’s a newly formed planet and is still glowing with heat, which makes the surface appear a shade of magenta.
Kepler-10c – A Mega-Earth
Kepler-10c lies 560 light-years from Earth in the constellation Draco, where it orbits Kepler-10 with a year of 45 days.
It is a planet that weighs 17 times as much as Earth and is more than twice as large in size. Planet formation theorists are challenged to explain how such a massive world could have formed. It is actually so unusual, it has opened up a new category of exoplanets called “Mega-Earths”.
Ogle-2005-Blg-390lb – A Frozen Wasteland
After a journey of over 20,000 light years we have reached the constellation of Sagittarius. A red dwarf star glows faintly against the darkness of space. Red dwarfs are some of the smallest and coolest stars in the universe. The star is orbited by a distant planet.
This planet is too far away to feel what little heat is generated by the star. It is one of the coldest known planets in the universe with a freezing surface temperature of -220 °C (-364 °F).
The entire planet is covered in a thick layer of ice. Glaciers, canyons, vast plains and giant mountains of ice dot the surface. Life on the surface of this frozen wasteland is highly unlikely.
Temperatures are so bone chillingly cold that any life as we know it would instantly be turned into an frozen ice cube. However, things could be more lively deep beneath the hostile, frozen surface.
The planet could have a warm core generating heat. Also, tidal heating caused by the gravitational pull of orbiting moons could keep the planets interior warm. This could melt much of the inner ice and create a giant subsurface ocean of water.
Psr B1620-26 B – Almost As Old As The Universe
At an estimated age of 13 billion years, the planet is more than twice as old as Earth’s 4.5 billion years. It’s about as old as a planet can be. It formed around a young, sun-like star barely 1 billion years after our universe’s birth in the Big Bang. The ancient planet has had a remarkable history because it resides in an unlikely, rough neighborhood. It orbits a peculiar pair of burned-out stars in the crowded core of a cluster of more than 100,000 stars.
Kepler-438b – The Most Earth-Like Planet In Terms Of Radius And Mass
Kepler-438b has an Earth Similarity Index (ESI) of 0.88, the highest known for a confirmed exoplanet to date, making it currently the most Earth-like planet in terms of radius and mass.
The planet was announced as orbiting within the habitable zone of Kepler-438, a region where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet.
Tres-4b – A Puffy Planet
Located 1,400 light-years away in the Hercules constellation, TrES-4b is one of the largest exoplanets ever discovered so far (next to WASP-17b, WASP-12b, CT Chamaeleontis b and GQ Lupi b). Though it is over 1.7 times the size of Jupiter, it has an extremely low density and is categorized as a ‘puffy’ planet.
The planet’s density is about the same as cork, which came as quite a shock. Astronomers attribute this to the extreme heat of 2300 °F (1260 °C) due to its proximity to the star. At only 4.5 million miles (7.2 million kilometers) away from its sun, TrES-4b is able to complete an orbit in three Earth days.
This made TrES-4b both the largest known planet and the planet with the lowest known density at the time of its discovery.
Hd 106906 – Its Formation Remains A Mystery
HD 106906 b is an exoplanet located 300 light years from Earth in the constellation of Crux. It orbits its star at a distance of 60 billion miles (approximately 96 billion kilometers) which is 20 times the distance between the Sun and Neptune. It is estimated to be about eleven times the mass of Jupiter and it is unknown how this planet formed or how it came to have such a distant orbit from its star. Despite being so far from the warmth of its star, this gas giant still has a scorching surface temperature of 1500 °C (2732 °F) and still glows in the infrared spectrum from the residual heat left over from its formation.
Wasp-17b – Moving In The Opposite Direction
WASP-17b is one of the largest exoplanets discovered and contains at least half of Jupiter’s mass.
What is more interesting about this planet is that it retrogrades the orbit, which means that this planet moves in the opposite direction of its parent star.
Tres-2b – Darker Than Coal
The planet has been identified in 2011 as the darkest known exoplanet, reflecting less than 1% of any light that hits it (less than coal, for example). And the light reflected is dimly red which gives the planet an evil red color.
Kepler-78b – A Lava Planet
Kepler-78b is similar to our planet Earth. This exoplanet is in the Cygnus constellation. The strangest thing about it, though, is how close it is to its host star: it is only 550,000 miles (885,139 kilometers) away. It is 40 times closer to its star than Mercury is to Sun and its temperature is estimated to be around 2030 °C (3680 °F).
According to Francesco Pepe, one of the astronomers involved with the discovery, the planet may be Earth-sized but “it can be imagined like a lava planet rather than an Earth-like planet.”
2mass J2126-8140 – An Inhabitant Of The Largest Known Solar System
We know planets revolve around their host star or stars. But is there any planet without its host star? Then we should name 2MASS J2126-8140 which situated in the Octans constellation. Well, this exoplanet is not exactly without a host star.
It’s host star is a red dwarf star which is 600 billion miles (965 billion kilometers) away from the exoplanet. It has both the longest and the widest orbit for a planetary mass object known.
“We were very surprised to find such a low-mass object so far from its parent star,” said Dr Simon Murphy from the Australian National University (ANU).
“There is no way it formed in the same way as our solar system did, from a large disc of dust and gas.”