Astronomy

Exoplanets

In our solar system, every planet orbits around the Sun. When a planet does not do so, it is known as an “exoplanet”. That is to say that exoplanets are those that inhabit a solar system other than ours. As of today, 3538 exoplanets have been discovered. Below, I’ll highlight the most intriguing ones!

Alpha Centauri Bb

Ever since the discovery of the first exoplanet, scientists around the world have looked for another exoplanet that resembles the Earth, and they found it in 2012, when Alpha Centauri Bb was discovered by Xavier Dumusque (the Geneva Observatory, Switzerland).

Even though this is the exoplanet most similar to the Earth found so far (being only 10% heavier than our planet), it is uninhabitable, as its closeness to its star (which has approximately 93% of the mass our Sun has) generates pressures and temperatures that don’t allow for the existence of water in the liquid state. This combined with the average temperature of 1200 degrees Celsius (2200 degrees Fahrenheit) makes it practically impossible for life as we know it to emerge in this exoplanet.

TrES 2b

Better known as “the dark planet”, “the Dracula planet”, or “the horror planet”, this exoplanet is characterized for not reflecting light, which makes it look like a big ball of coal. Averaging temperatures of 1000 degrees Celsius (1800°F), the heat of this planet impedes the formation of clouds, which would help to reflect light. Overall, this planet reflects only 1% of its star’s light. To enhance its “horrific” reputation, some red gases taint this exoplanet’s atmosphere, making it look like it’s taken straight out of a horror movie. Even though scientists are not certain of why this planet is so dark, the most likely theory is that this planet is composed of substances such as sodium or potassium, which absorb light.

PSR B1257+12

One of the most magnificent views that can be found on Earth is the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. However, this spectacle pales in comparison of what can be found in PSR B1257+12. The lights in the sky of this exoplanet can be observed from anywhere on its surface. It is believed that these lights originate from the radiation of a star that became a supernova, and still affects the planet.

PSR B1620-26 b

Being born 13 billion years ago, this is the oldest planet that has been recorded so far. In comparison, Earth is practically a toddler, as it was born “only” 4.65 billion years ago.

This planet was discovered in 2013 in the globular star cluster M4. Some curious facts about this planet are that it takes approximately 100 years to complete an orbit and that its mass is about 2.5 times bigger than that of Jupiter.

55 Cancri e

Many people wish they could make a trip to this planet, as one of its most unusual characteristics are that, under its surface, 55 Cancri e hides miles and miles of diamonds! After being discovered in 2004, several studies have been carried out to get more information on this planet, and several amazing facts have been discovered about it. Among other things, it has been discovered that this exoplanet’s star has large quantities of carbon. If 55 Cancri e were formed from the same cloud as its star, then, it would mean that it is highly probable that a large layer of diamonds underlies this planet’s surface.

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