Earth is our home. We’re used to seeing white rolling clouds in the blue sky and the sun rise and set over the horizon. We’re used to breathing oxygen and enjoying the experiences each of the seasons offer.
But beyond our planet’s atmosphere lie worlds that may sound more science fiction than real. Out there in the vastness of space are planets that seem more imaginary than science would have us believe.
But scientists have discovered and confirmed the existence of these strange planets. Let’s take a look at 10 strange planets ever found to date.
Sixty-nine light years away from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus (the swan), scientists discovered 16 Cygni b. What baffled experts is the fact the planet’s orbit is elliptical. Scientists had previously thought all planets in the universe orbited around their respective stars in a circular pattern. 16 Cygni b disproved this belief with its elongated orbit. Its elliptical orbit, which gave the planet extreme seasons; too cold when it’s far from its star and too hot when it’s near the star, earned the planet its nickname “the yo-yo planet.”
In the movie Waterworld audiences are introduced to an Earth where cities are submerged in deep water and dryland has become a myth. The situation is similar in GJ 1214b, where scientists believe there is no dry land, only a never-ending ocean and clear blue skies with puffy clouds up above, hence the nickname “the waterworld.”
It is located 42 light years from the sun and can be found in the constellation of Ophiuchus (Greek for serpent-bearer). GJ 1214b is classified as a “Super Earth,” meaning it’s bigger than Earth but smaller than the four gas giants in our solar system.
Named after the oldest man in the bible, planet Methuselah (official name: PSR 1620-26 b/B1620-26) is considered to be the oldest planet identified so far. Scientists estimate its age to be 13 billion years, almost three times older than the Earth.
Like the yo-yo planet, planet Methuselah also disproved a previous belief that a planet could not possibly have formed so early after the Big Bang as there would not have been enough materials to create its core.
Bellerophon, as 51 Pegasi B is also known, falls under the “hot Jupiter” class of planets. Its unofficial name is taken from the Greek hero who tamed Pegasus, the winged horse, which is the same name of the constellation in which this planet can be found, 50 light years away from Earth.
It’s tidally locked, meaning the same side faces its star while it orbits in only 4.2 days. The planet experiences iron rains caused by extreme temperatures reaching over 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 1,000 degrees Celsius). The sky is also filled with Aurora Borealis-like lights.
In the unicorn constellation Monoceros, more than 450 light years away from our planet, lies CoRoT-7b. It’s an Earth-like planet that is almost 60 times closer to its star than Earth. That would be like Earth in the orbit of Mercury.
At this distance, its sun would look 360 times larger than the sun does in our sky. The surface facing the star (it’s tidally locked) is believed to have temperatures reaching as high as 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 2,000 degrees Celsius). This extreme heat can vaporize rock, resulting in a planet with a molten surface.
About 1,200 light years away in the constellation of Auriga is WASP-12b. The planet is very close to its star, completing its orbit in 1.1 days. This distance has disastrous effects. Scientists have observed the planet has become egg-shaped as a result of the nearby star’s gravitational pull. Material is also being pulled off the planet and in about 10 million years, scientists say the star will have completely consumed the doomed planet.
Located 750 light years away from our solar system in the constellation Draco sits an ominous-looking planet. This is TrES-2b, the darkest known planet so far. It is darker than the blackest coal, but emits a faint red glow that makes it look like burning ember said David Spiegel of Princeton University. The planet absorbs most of its star’s light and reflects less than 1 percent of any light that hits it. Scientists say this could be due to the extreme temperatures in the planet that reach more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 1,000 degrees Celsius). At this rate, no reflective clouds could form, but the atmosphere would contain light-absorbing chemicals like vaporized sodium, potassium, or gaseous titanium oxide.
Imagine a planet rich in diamonds. That’s what 55 Cancri e, aka the diamond planet, is thought to be like. It’s a carbon-rich super Earth located in the constellation Cancer.
It is believed that “at least a third of the planet’s mass,” which is equal to about three Earth masses, could be diamond. According to calculations by Peter Cohan, the diamond in this planet could amount to $26.9 nonillion.
Imagine a giant ball of ice on fire. That’s how some describe the strange planet Gliese 436 b. It is about the size of Neptune and is also thought to consist mostly of water. The water on this planet, however, is not in liquid state, but is in the form of “hot ice.” Think about how diamonds are formed by pressures under the Earth; that’s similar to what happens to water before it becomes hot ice.
Reminiscent of Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine, HD 188753 Ab, is a planet with not two, but three stars. If you were on this planet, you’d see three shadows and experience an occasional triple sunset said its discoverer Dr. Maciej Konacki of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.
HD 188753 Ab, located about 150 light years away in the constellation Cygnus, is the first planet known to reside in a triple-star system. The existence of this hot Jupiter in “tight living quarters” have scientists questioning current theories about this type of planet.
That wraps up our list but many other strange planets are out there in space. As scientists study the universe, they discover more and more strange new worlds that orbit the stars dotting our night sky.
Which do you think is the strangest planet of them all? Tell us in the comments below or in our Facebook page.