11 of the Most Fascinating Planets in Our Universe

From the chemically strange to the decidedly terrifying, these planets are almost too extreme to believe.

Since the beginning of human life on Earth, our species has been captivated by the night sky. Venturing beyond our world into the endless depths of our universe is as compelling and exciting as it is daunting and scary. There’s a plethora of planets, stars, and galaxies beyond our comprehension, defying our traditional laws of physics and science as we know it. We’ve learned a lot about the planets orbiting the sun in our own solar system, but what lies beyond? We’ve compiled a list of planets you’ve never heard of, some of which are the scariest planets in the universe. Without further ado, here’s a list of just some of the most fascinating planets we’ve discovered.

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1. J1407b

Commonly referred to as “Super Saturn” or “Saturn on steroids,” this planet features a massive system of circumplanetary rings about 640 times that of Saturn. The exoplanet is located in the constellation of Centaurus, 434 light-years from Earth. If this planet swapped places with Saturn, its rings would dominate Earth’s sky, appearing significantly larger than a full moon.

2. Gliese 1214b

Also known as “The Waterworld,” the entire surface of this planet is made up entirely of a gigantic ocean. The depths of these waters are said to be thousands of times deeper than our largest oceans on Earth. Depending on temperatures and conditions, the water may exist in steam, ice, plasma, and more. Despite the lack of land on the planet, where there is water, there is oxygen. Therefore, there’s a strong potential for life on this planet.

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3. Gliese 436 b

This planet seems to defy everything we know about chemistry. The icy surface is similar to the planet Hoth from Star Wars, however, the surface is constantly burning at 439 degrees celsius. This is because the planet’s gravity is so immensely strong that it pulls the melted ice water towards its core. This compresses the water into solid form, thereby stopping it from ever evaporating. Gliese 436 b easily goes down as one of the most interesting planets we’ve discovered thus far.

4. HD 189733b

Next time you want to complain about the weather, be thankful you don’t live on a planet where it rains glass sideways. This planet’s atmosphere is full of silicon particles, which give it the beautiful blue color you see above. However, because of the extremely high surface temperature, these silicon particles condense to form solid glass. On top of that, the glass flies around the planet sideways in an endless cycle of 4,000 mph winds. Those New York winters don’t seem so bad now, huh?

5. PSR B1620-26 b

The certified OG of planets in our universe. With an estimated age of 13 billion years, PSR B1620-26 B is nearly three times as old as Earth. For this reason, it’s often referred to as “Methuselah” or “the Genesis planet”. Barely 1 billion years after our universe’s birth in the Big Bang, this planet formed around a young, sun-like star. It’s basically as old as a planet can be. What’s even more interesting is the planet’s remarkable location in an unlikely neighborhood. It orbits a peculiar pair of burned-out stars in a crowded core of a cluster of over 100,000 stars.

6. Kepler-438b

In terms of radius and mass, this is the most Earth-like planet we’ve ever discovered. The Earth Similarity Index (ESI) is a proposed characterization of how similar a planetary-mass object is to Earth, rated on a scale from 0 to 1. Kepler-438b boasts an impressive 0.88 score. While the ESI has no quantitative meaning for habitability, Kepler-438b orbits within the habitable zone of Kepler-438. In other words, liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet, potentially supporting life.

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7. TrES-2 b

Located 750 light-years from our solar system, Tres-2b absorbs over an astonishing 99% of the light that hits it, making it the darkest known exoplanet. The minimal amount of light reflected causes the planet to show an evil red color, almost like a giant ball of coal. Astronomers theorize that a lack of reflective clouds is due to the planet’s high temperature. However, another theory suggests that the planet may contain chemicals that we have yet to discover that absorb light at a high rate.

8. 55 Cancri e

Also known as Diamond World, this planet contains an abundance of carbon that, when under tremendous pressures and temperatures orbiting close to its star, turns to diamond. If you were to put a price tag on this glitzy planet, it would be valued at $27 nonillion. That 27 followed by 30 zeros, over 300 quadrillion times Earth’s total GDP of $70 trillion. Roughly twice the size of Earth and 40 light-years away, 55 Cancri e quite literally sparkles in space.

9. Kepler-10c

Located 560 light-years from Earth in the constellation Draco, this planet orbits Kepler-10 with a year spanning 45 days. Kepler-10c is also referred to as a Mega-Earth as it weighs 17 times that of Earth and is more than twice as large in size. It’s difficult for planet formation theorists to explain how a world so massive could have formed. The size of this planet was so unusual that it opened up a new category of exoplanets known as “Mega-Earths”.

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10. CoKu Tau 4

CoKu Tau 4 is actually the name of the star this unnamed planet orbits. The unnamed baby world is forcing astronomers to rethink some of their theories on planetary formation. At less than 1 million years old, this planet challenges the age-old thought that planets take several million years to form. Additionally, planets form out of discs of dust and gas long after their parent stars have formed, though that simply isn’t the case here.

11. Gliese 581 c

This planet is extremely special because it’s considered one of the top three exoplanets that could support alien life. Orbiting a red dwarf star, the planet is tidally locked, meaning it doesn’t rotate on its axis. Therefore, one side of the planet is always facing away from its star, while the other side is always facing toward it. The former side is so cold that you’d instantly freeze, however, the latter side is so hot that you’d instantly melt. So how could this planet be habitable? There’s a narrow strip of land located directly between these two sides that is the perfect temperature to support life. In 2008, we sent a message from Earth directly to Gliese 581 c. It is expected to reach the planet in 2029.

We hope you enjoyed this list covering just a small number of the most fascinating planets in our universe. As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! Additionally, you can check out NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Index for more information on these and other fascinating planets. Lastly, for more editorials, check out The Midnight Drive.

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