10 of the strangest exoplanets in the universe
Bright pink? Lava? Liquid planets that could hold water? Some far-out planets are truly... out of this world.
Exoplanets are planets that lie beyond our own solar system and revolve around other stars many light years away. In the past two decades, thousands have been discovered, most of them with NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. Many of these planets take the namesake of this telescope – the Kepler-10b was one of the first confirmed terrestrial planets to be discovered outside of our solar system. It is incredibly close to its star the Kepler 10. The discovery of this planet excited scientists as it was the first confirmation of an exoplanet.
Geoff Marcy, a pioneering scientist in exoplanets declared the discovery: "as among the most profound scientific discoveries in human history... it is a bridge between the gas giant planets we've been finding and the earth itself.”
NASA's Kepler mission has already identified more than 5,000 potential exoplanets – with the discoveries expected to continue to grow over time.
These many newly discovered worlds come in a variety of material and orbits. Some are gargantuan gas worlds that dwarf Jupiter. Others, rocky and icy barely skidding past their roaring suns. NASA and other space agencies are interested in discovering a variety of planets, but one such kind has also sparked their interest – planets within the habitable zone where liquid water oceans could be formed. The boundaries of what’s habitable and what’s even possible in the universe seem to change every day. Strange compositions we thought impossible are being discovered all the time and with an average estimate of 1 trillion planets in just our galaxy alone, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.
These 10 exoplanets are indicative of this novelty.
HD 209458b: Osiris
This planet boasts a number of first discoveries. Scientists have found that it is the only planet currently found outside of the solar system to have detectable oxygen and carbon in its atmosphere. Its parent star is 150 light years from Earth in the Pegasus constellation. Named after the Egyptian god who lost part of his body, Osiris revolves around its sun a mere 4 million miles away.
The scorched planet is evaporating at such a fast rate that scientists have begun to create a new classification of exoplanets called chthonian planets. This nomenclature comes from the infernal Greek deities and H.P. Lovecraft’s subsequent usage for his space monsters. It is most likely a dead core of a completely evaporated gas planet.
Astronomer’s research once posited about the possibility of a circumbinary planet – that is, a planet that circles around two stars. In an homage to Luke Skywalker’s home planet in Star Wars, Kepler-16b is nicknamed Tatooine. Whereas Skywalker’s homeworld was habitable, this planet is cold, gaseous and most likely cannot harbor life.
It is 200 light years away from earth. The discovery of a circumbinary planet was hinted at and then confirmed with the observation of brightness of the dual star system being dimmed by a planet’s transit in front of it. While being in the habitable zone is ruled out for this planet, Kepler's principal investigator William Borucki on the importance of this discovery stated:
"This discovery confirms a new class of planetary systems that could harbor life… Given that most stars in our galaxy are part of a binary system, this means the opportunities for life are much broader than if planets form only around single stars. This milestone discovery confirms a theory that scientists have had for decades but could not prove until now."
Kepler-22b: New Earth
One of the most promising and early findings from Kepler is the Kepler 22b. 600 light years away from earth it’s twice the size of Earth and should have temperatures around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This planet is considered a “super-Earth” and is within the habitable zone of its star. Its star is within the Lyra and Cygnus constellations and shines 25% less bright than our sun.
Scientists think that the planet may have a rocky core and be covered in an ocean like Neptune. But life on the planet isn’t out of the question yet. Kepler deputy science chief stated that “It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that life could exist in such an ocean.”
PSR B1620-26 b: Methuselah
One of the oldest planets in the known universe so far, Methuselah is 2.5 times the mass of Jupiter. It’s also another planet that orbits two stars. At 12.7 billion years ago, this exoplanet tops the aging scales. Interestingly enough, the two stars that it orbits are both burnt out dead stars. It is 12,400 light years away in the constellation of Scorpius.
At first, scientists didn’t know whether to classify it as a brown dwarf or a planet. Since it was created some 1 billion years after the big bang, astronomers have concluded that planets are not a rare phenomenon and ou early universe was probably teeming with them everywhere.
TrES-2b: Coal Black
Found during the Transatlantic Exoplanet Survey, TrES-2b is one of the darkest planets we’ve ever been able to see. Similarly sized to Jupiter, this coal black planet is less reflective than black acrylic paint. Jupiter, on the other hand, reflects more than a third of the sunlight that reaches it.
TrEs-2b is also burning up as it orbits its star at only three million miles. It’s not clear what makes the planet so dark. There are hues of red that emit a faint glow. The darkened planet is 750 light-years away in the Draco constellation.
Kepler 452b: Earth’s Cousin
A planet that’s more equally matched to Earth floats along some 500 light years away from our planet. It’s no larger than 10 percent more of Earth’s size. It encircles a red dwarf star with a 130-day orbit. A smaller sized planet is more likely to harbor and support life, especially inside the habitable zone.
Inhabitants on this planet would feel about twice as heavy as they did on earth. The planet is a lot older than our sun as well as it clocks in at about 6 billion years old. There’s no confirmation whether or not the planet is rocky or gaseous.
Proxima b: Close to Home
One of our closest star systems to us known as Proxima Centauri unveiled its planet to us a few years ago. A roughly Earth-sized planet orbiting our nearest neighbor, Proxima B is the closest exoplanet we’ve ever found in the habitable zone. There are a few caveats to its potential habitability. For one, it orbits a red-dwarf star which is a lot cooler than our sun. It’s also likely that the planet is tidally locked to the star, similar to our moon. This would subject it to stellar flares.
Scott Gaudi, an astronomy professor at Ohio State University stated that: "This thing is being bombarded by a fair amount of high-energy radiation. It's not obvious if it's going to have a magnetic field strong enough to prevent its whole atmosphere from getting blown away. But those are really hard calculations, and I certainly wouldn't put my money either way on that."
Despite the unknowns, this discovery was a major stepping stone for finding exoplanets close to our backyard of the galaxy. An earth size planet this close to home gives us hope for future discoveries.
TRAPPIST-1f: Seven Wonders
An exoplanet system called TRAPPIST-1 named so for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope, located a system of seven planets all within the habitable zone and relatively close to us on a galactic scale. At only 40 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius, TRAPPIST-1f part of the seven wonders is a rocky planet that could have liquid water.
This discovery set a new record for the most amount of planets in a habitable zone orbiting a star outside of our own solar system. There is a potentiality that all seven of these planets could have liquid water.
GJ 504 b: Pure Pink
NASA scientists discovered one of the youngest and most interesting planets in GJ 504 b. Only 57 light years away from Earth, the exoplanet is thought to be only 100-200 million years old. The insights into this planet are giving astronomers a first-hand look into planet development. According to infrared cameras, it’s a deep shade of pink. It also has fewer clouds than the majority of observed gas-giants.
Michael McElwain, who was part of the discovery team stated that: “If we could travel to this giant planet, we would see a world still glowing from the heat of its formation with a color reminiscent of a dark cherry blossom, a dull magenta.” According to current models, gas giants usually form within a certain range from their host star. GJ 504, the pink wonder goes well beyond the established range.
55 Cancri e: Hellfire Earth
Originally dubbed the “diamond planet,” this steaming hot rocky planet orbits its sun in 14 days. It has a temperature of 4,900 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists who first discovered it suggested that it was composed entirely of diamonds and graphite. While this interpretation has gone out of favor, it remains an interesting planet because of its density and proximity to its host star. The planet is 40 light years away.
The planet is also thought to have lava flows and at twice the size of Earth. Renyu Hu of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated that "If there is lava on this planet, it would need to cover the entire surface… But the lava would be hidden from our view by the thick atmosphere."
While it’s still up to debate, the potentially carbon-rich planet with such high temperatures and pressure could hold a large amount of diamond in its interior.
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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