On February 26th, 2014, NASA announced the discovery of 715 exoplanets around 305 stars; all spotted by the powerful Kepler Space Telescope. Though there are currently 4000 confirmed exoplanets in total, the reality is that throughout the infinite vastness of space there are countless planets waiting to be discovered.
Since humanity properly modeled our own solar system, philosophers and physicists alike have pondered what lays beyond our own cosmic neighborhood; what exoplanets are out there to be discovered and what new insights can they offer mankind about their place in the universe.
Whether it is shown in the latest science fiction blockbuster or announced by NASA, now more than ever, the scientific community is interested in the finding of new worlds to better understand the origins of the universe, to potentially find intelligent life, or for future colonization.
For the uninitiated, an exoplanet is a planet that exists beyond the solar system orbiting other stars. NASA’s weapon of choice when searching for exoplanets is the Kepler Telescope using something called the transit method. In short, when a planet passes in front of a star, that is called a transit.
When this occurs, the star dims just a bit, enough for Kepler to pick up on the change and determine if the orbiting object is a planet, the size of the potential object, the distance at which the object is orbiting, and even the planet’s composition.
Now, exoplanets come in all shapes and sizes with some resembling something out of a science fiction film. Even in the world of exoplanets, there are oddities, with environments that are both fascinating and terrifying. Here are some of the weirdest exoplanets ever discovered.
It’s Raining Glass: Hd 189733b
The first stop on your journey is going to be Hd 189733b. Slightly larger than the planet Jupiter, the planet is comfortably situated 62 light years away, which is only a hop, skip, and a jump in space terms. Hd 189733b is a stunning planet, producing an almost azure blue color due to the planets odd atmosphere mostly comprised of silicate atoms.
However, you might not want to stay on this planet too long or think about vacationing here. Wind speeds on this planet can reach as high as 5,400 miles per hour. And if that does not scare you away, the exoplanet can reach way over 900 °C. Not to mention, the planet rains glass...sideways.
Perhaps a safer alternative than the previously mentioned planet, Gj-504b is odd simply because of its appearance. This exoplanet can be found in the Virgo constellation, orbiting a star nine times the distance Jupiter orbits the sun.
The planet itself is young compared to other planets, making the planet produce a bright but odd magenta/ pink color. If you always wanted everything pink, Gj-504b may be a good candidate for home.
The Diamond is Forever: Cancri E
If you are thinking about popping the question to your significant other, what better way to do that than with a diamond, but not just any diamond; a diamond from Cancri E. About 40 light-years away from Earth in the Cancer constellation, it is eight-time times larger than our planet.
The planet itself has more carbon than the sun, which also has lead researchers to believe that the planet is covered with an unprecedented amount of diamonds.
However, if you are planning to stop by to mine them, you are going to need a way to withstand the 2400 °C surface temperature.
Saturn on Steroids: J1407b
Saturn itself is a beautiful planet, renown for its elegant rings. If you like Saturn, you definitely will enjoy a nice field trip to J1407b. This is exoplanet is basically what would happen if you were to ask a child to create their own version of Saturn. The exoplanet’s rings expand 200 times wider than the planet Saturn's rings in our solar system.
To put that into perspective, if J1407b were to take the place of Saturn the rings of the planet would appear in the night sky, appearing much larger than the moon. Though, this does sound very awesome.
A New Hope: Gliese 581c
The idea of colonizing a planet is not completely science fiction, and there are even huge efforts being made to colonize Mars and potentially planets far beyond. Aside from having the right technology, the trick is finding a planet close enough to travel to in the future. Located a mere 20 light years, Gliese 581c could be your great-grandkids' next destination.
The planet orbits a star very closely at 10.9 million kilometers, creating freezing temperatures on one side of the planet and scorching temperatures on the other, yet there is a small strip of land on this planet that could have mild temperatures nice enough to theoretically support life.
One Giant Water Park: Gj 1214b
If a land is such a bore for you perhaps a vacation on Gj 1214b may be what you are looking for in the very distant future. This exoplanet has no landmasses on it whatsoever, being completely covered in oceans. The exoplanet has been described as a bigger and hotter version of Jupiter’s Galilean moon Europa.
The Planet As Old As Time: Psr B1620-26 B
Psr B1620-26 B is 13 billion years old. While the universe is estimated to be around 13.8 billion years old. The star itself began to take form around a sun-like star only 1 billion years after the big bang. Even odder, the planet itself resides in a “rough neighborhood” of burned out stars in a crowded cluster of more than 100,000 stars.