The universe is a vast and seemingly infinite place. With each passing day, scientists and astronomers discover new celestial objects and planets that greatly astound us due to their unique and unusual characteristics. From planets made entirely of diamonds to planets with a similar makeup to our own planet Earth, here are the top ten strangest planets discovered in space.
10. GJ 1214b
Discovered back in 2009, GJ 1214b is a planet that has a rather interesting makeup due to it being covered entirely in water, shrouded in a thick, steamy atmosphere, which is why scientists named it the “steamy water-world”.
One big ocean with very limited amounts of landmass forms this planet, making it an inhabitable planet for human beings. Its ocean, however, is not in any way similar to the oceans in our planet; due to the planet’s steamy atmosphere and intense gravitational pressure coming from its core, its waters would achieve a form of hot ice called “ice seven”.
Now, this isn’t the same ice you would put in your drinks as this ice has a strange and unfamiliar consistency, leading scientists to believe that the planet is not suitable for biological life. Add to that the fact that it’s extremely close to its host star, at a distance of 2 million kilometres, which raises the surface temperature to up to 200 degrees Celsius.
GJ 1214b is not one of the places you would want to go for an interplanetary vacation.
Located 453 light-years away from us, the extrasolar planet HAT-P-1b rivals the size of the largest planet of our solar system, Jupiter.
While its technically as large as Jupiter, its total mass is only 60% of Jupiter’s. Its weight equals to that of a cork ball of the same size. So, if you put the planet in a tub filled with water, the planet would actually float.
While nobody can provide a valid explanation as to how it’s so large and lightweight at the same time, scientists believe that the planet’s size swelled up due to “tidal flexing”, wherein orbital energy turns into intense heat, causing the planet to grow in size.
At the same time, the intense heat makes the planet truly inhabitable. Only time will tell whether this lightweight giant will continue to grow in size in the years to come.
8. HD 189773b
Possessing a blue colour similar to that of Earth, you would think that this once is a safe place to live. Looks can be deceiving, however, as this planet holds a terrible secret — this planet rains shards of glasses.
You see, the planet’s blue colour doesn’t come from water; rather, it comes from silicate particles from the clouds condensed with the planet’s atmospheric heat and pressure, forming glass shards that cover the entire planet and giving it a blue tint similar to our oceans.
Combine that with the deadly weather of the planet, with wind speeds measuring up to two kilometres per second, and anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in these winds would be sent spiralling across the globe with no hope of recovering, all while getting stabbed by shards of glasses coming straight at them.
Upon discovering this, you could say that the scientists’ expectations of finding a planet similar to ours were… shattered.
With an appearance that is literally darker than black, TrES-2b is the darkest planet humans have ever discovered. Whereas other planets reflect a bit of light from its host star, this planet reflects only one per cent of its star’s light; giving it the appearance of a black hole.
This phenomenon is so mysterious, it led some scientists to believe that their initial findings were inaccurate and faulty. Since then, scientists have formulated some hypotheses that could explain the planet’s dark colour. It may be due to the planet’s high concentration of gaseous sodium and titanium oxide. Absence of ammonia clouds, necessary for gas planets like TrES-2b to reflect light, could be another reason.
While these hypotheses are quite feasible, some think that the planet harbours a secret that is yet to be discovered. Could it be aliens and their overly-advanced technology that’s causing this? Who knows?
Located 480 light-years away from Earth, the exoplanet CoRoT-7b is one of the few planets in the universe that could possibly harbour life due to the planets Earth-like in composition.
However, it’s not possible for us humans to live on this planet. The reason? It rains solid rocks. The planet is tidal-locked. It’s one side experiences permanent daytime while the other experiences perpetual night time. Intense heat on the hotter side of the planet causes numerous volcanoes to erupt and launch magma into space.
These molten rocks then travel at speed to the colder side of the planet to fall onto the planet as solid rocks. So, if you manage to land on the planet unscathed, you get two options: get thoroughly cooked by the intense heat or get frozen and pelted by solidified magma. Your call.
5. Gliese 436b
This is perhaps the most intriguing exoplanet out there due to one reason alone: “hot ice” is covering its surfaces. Contradictory as it may sound, it is possible, and Gliese 436b stands as living proof.
While it initially puzzled scientists, they were able to find out that the formation of “hot ice” is possible due to the planet’s unique makeup. Even though Gliese 436b is only 6.9 million kilometres away from its host star — which makes the surface heat up to 439 degrees Celsius — the planet’s immense gravitational force makes it impossible for the water molecules to evaporate, resulting in the molecules bonding together to form a state of ice called “ice ten”.
Like the previously-mentioned “ice seven”, this state of ice is unlike the ice we have here on Earth, as even touching it slightly can severely burn you. Safe to say that this planet is a literal representation of the saying, “hell freezes over”.
Just like HAT-P-1b, the exoplanet WASP-17b belongs to a category called “puffy planets” due to it being 19 times the size of Jupiter, but having only half of its mass, making it the similar in density to polystyrene.
But that’s not the only thing that makes it unusual, because WASP-17b orbits around its host sun in the opposite direction, making it one of the few planets with a retrograde orbit. One explanation for this is due to it being close to its sun, as it’s only 7 million kilometres away from it, causing an intense gravitational pull, making it orbit in reverse.
This is also the possible explanation as to why the planet is so big yet lightweight like HAT-P-1b. Another theory scientists came up is that some planets or stars near it, affect its orbit, but this theory is unfounded and further research is required.
However, if this theory is correct, this planet, millions of years from now, will have its orbit reversed once again, allowing it to orbit around its sun in the proper direction.
3. 55 Cancri e
Diamonds are amongst the most precious minerals here on Earth. But on the exoplanet 55 Cancri e, it really isn’t that precious or rare, as one-third of the planet is made from diamond.
If it were a single gem, it would be larger than earth. Assuming the principles of economics didn’t exist, It would also be worth around $26.9 nonillion at current diamond prices – that’s a 1 with 30 zeros behind it.
Amongst the “super-Earth” category of planets, 55 Cancri e is a rather interesting entry seeing as its mass is mostly carbon, which would explain why diamonds exist on the planet. As you may know, diamonds form when carbon mixes with crystalline materials under intense heat pressure. And with a planetary average temperature of 1,726 degrees Celsius, it’s no surprise why diamonds make up one-third of the planet.
As its mostly made up of diamonds, it is truly a sight to behold. The diamonds give the planet a luminescent blue glow that will surely grab your attention.
However, as its 40 light-years away from Earth, you can only admire its beauty by using a powerful telescope.
2. Gliese 581c
While there are tons of Earth-like planets out there, the planet Gliese 581c is a prime candidate for the most Earth-like planet at the moment. Having initial temperatures similar to ours at 0 to 40 degrees Celsius as well as supporting liquid water, it’s one of the few planets in the known universe that could harbour life.
However, more recent studies show that the planet has smaller habitable zones, as the composition and thickness of the atmosphere greatly differ among different parts of the planet. Still, the discovery of this planet is a major breakthrough, as this planet may serve as proof that there are other planets out there that support life forms such as our own.
Gliese 581c is also comparable to a recently-discovered exoplanet, Kepler 438 b, which also has Earth-like properties.
The position of both planets are in their host stars’ habitable zone, enabling liquid water to flow within the planet. Not only that, both planets have rocky surfaces and oceans, which are necessary for a habitable planet.
Still, more research on these planets is necessary. A planet needs to meet specific requirements in order for it to be truly habitable for living beings.
If you think Saturn’s rings are magnificent, then you’ll marvel at the beauty of the rings of the exoplanet J1407b, as it possesses rings that are roughly 200 times larger than the rings of Saturn.
Dubbed as the “super-Saturn”, J1407b is located 433.8 light-years away from our solar system. This magnificent planet has more than 30 rings circling it. Each ring spans up to hundreds of millions of kilometres in diameter. In fact, replacing Saturn’s rings with those of J1407b will make them more visible than a full moon.
According to astronomers, these rings are slowly forming into “exomoons” — a celestial process that is basically foreign to our solar system. Astronomers predict that these rings will eventually dissipate and disappear millions of years from now. The result will be the formation of several exomoons that will orbit around J1407b.
For now, the rings of J1407b will stay for several thousands of years. Maybe during that time, we’ll have the technology sufficient enough for us to travel to J1407b and gaze upon its wondrous rings up close.
Which planet interested you the most? Would you be willing to visit one of these planets if given the chance? Let me know in the comments section down below. See you next time.