5 Strange Exoplanets of the Universe – Interesting, terrifying and intriguing

There are several novels and movies about rescuing our planet from various hypothetical scenarios. Whether it is a zombie outbreak, food scarcity, asteroid attack, an incurable virus spreading fast through the crowd or possibly an alien attack, our beloved movie makers have covered it all. Space exploration in movies have lead various thoughts into our minds and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of the daydreamers.

Best Movies of this Genre

The Martian (2015)

Interstellar (2014)

Aliens (1986)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Moon (2009)

Alien (1979)

Apollo 13 (1995)

Elysium (2013)

The Fifth Element (1997)

Wall.E (2008)

Star Trek (2009)

Europa Report (2013)

Galaxy Quest (1999)

Destination Moon (1950)

I often lose myself in thought, thinking about space and feel that it is actually an unsolved mystery. There are many unexpected and awesome things present in space. The universe is never-ending and ever-growing, and everyday we make a new discovery. But in this post, we will be talking about the strangest planets in space.

1. Gleise 581c – The Super Earth

Gliese581c super earth
Rendered view of Gliese581c – source: independent.co.uk

Gliese 581 c is a planet orbiting around the red dwarf star Gliese 581 about 20 light-years away from Earth. In April of 2007, astronomers first published this discovery. What makes it so strange is that, though its conditions are habitable and is one of the most Earth-like planets, it doesn’t rotate. The same face of the planet keeps facing its star. The effective temperature on the planet would be in the range of −3 °C (27 °F) and 40 °C (104 °F). The surface temperatures, however, may differ depending on the types of gases that are present in the atmosphere.

It is categorized as a super-Earth. Super-Earths are extrasolar planets that are only categorized on the basis of mass. They weigh between 5 to 10 times the mass of Earth. The term super-Earth in no way explains the surface conditions or habitability of the planet.

2. WASP-17b – The Puffy Planet

Puffy Planet is a scientific term for large planets with low densities. In the summer of 2009, of the star WASP-17, astronomers discovered WASP-17b. It is the first planet to have a retrograde orbit, meaning, it rotates in the direction opposite of the rotation of its host star. It is the second-largest exoplanet to have been discovered with a radius size of 1.9 times that of Jupiter. However, it weighs only half the mass of Jupiter making it the puffiest planet discovered till date.

Related: Jupiter’s land mass is really not very well defined

WASP 17b exoplanet
WASP 17b size comparison with Jupiter (right)

On December 2013, scientists working with the Hubble telescope detected water in the atmosphere of this planet.

3. 55 Cancri-e – The Gem in the Sky

55 Cancri e, also known as Janssen, is another super-Earth on the list. It takes 19 hours for the exoplanet to revolve around its host star. It was first discovered in 2004. In 2010 a study showed that it has Graphite on its surface with a thick layer of Diamond beneath. This may be a result of the huge surface temperature on the planet. The side of the planet facing the star deals with 2000 Kelvin (1,700°C or 3,100°F ). This is hot enough to melt metal.

55 cancri e exoplanet
Haven Giguere’s representation of the diamond planet.

Like all other planets, this could also be a theory but is the most plausible scenario. Don’t plan your journey yet, it could be a one-way trip.

On February 2016, NASA for the first time analyzed the atmosphere of a super-Earth exoplanet successfully.

4. Gliese 436b – An exoplanet with the Surface of Burning Ice

gliese 436b exoplanet
Gliese 436 b in comparison with Neptune

Everyone knows ice burns. But this planet, found in the red dwarf star, has a surface with temperatures up to 700 Kelvin and yet it has a core made up of ice. Due to the extreme gravity on the planet, water can exist in its solid form at such high temperatures. This planet falls under the category of Hot Neptune, which means it has the same mass as Neptune and Uranus and is as close as 1 au to its host star. Gliese 436b is the first hot Neptune to be discovered with absolute certainty in 2007.

5. TrES-2b – The Darkest and Hottest of all

If you think coal is the darkest thing to ever exist then this exoplanet will prove you wrong. It is hard to imagine something darker than coal. This dark planet pinned as TrES-2b and also known as Kepler-1b is 750 light-years away from our solar system. It is a gas giant and reflects less than 1% of the light it receives, and hence the darkness. It is close to its host star and has a mass same as Jupiter, so it can be classified as a hot Jupiter.

Darkest exoplanet TrES-2b
Artist’s representation of the darkest planet.

NASA mentioned that this exoplanet was in the field of view when Kepler first sent the images back to their base. Kepler spacecraft was designed for this purpose, to look for alternative exoplanets that are habitable.

The coal-black planet study has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

There are even more exciting things out there that are yet to be discovered. Who knows, maybe one day there will be a mission to ship all people to an exoplanet that is far away from us. Like it is said in Interstellar, humanity was born on Earth, but it was never meant to die here. 

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