In 1992, the first planet outside our solar system was discovered.
Today, thanks to technological developments, such as the Kepler Telescope, we now know of thousands of exoplanets (planets orbiting a star that is not our sun).
Unlike the planets in our solar system, not all of these planets are a ball of rock or gas. Far from it, our universe is filled with planets that would put science fiction novels to shame.
Some are wonders of chemistry, others are creepy and disturbing and some are just straight out bizarre.
Here are six of the strangest exoplanets known to man:
6. 55 Cancrie E – The diamond planet
This planet may be a girl’s best friend because it is one third diamond. When this planet was formed, due to the extreme pressure and heat from its parent star, the carbon based planet compressed into a gigantic diamond.
Forbes has estimated this planet is worth 28.9 nonillion US dollars ($26.9, followed by 30 zeros). But because diamonds are valuable because of their rarity, if you brought that much diamond back to earth, diamonds would no longer be rare and would become completely worthless.
This planet revolves around its parent star so fast that one year on 55 Cancrie E is equivalent to around 18 hours on earth.
5. HD106906b – The lonely planet
This planet orbits its parent star at a distance 20 times greater than the distance that Neptune orbits the sun (about 60 billion miles). This makes it one of the most isolated planets that we know of.
It is 11 times the sizes of Jupiter and has been given the nick name ‘Super Jupiter’.
4. J1407b – The giant ringed planet
J1407b is proving to be a real head scratcher for scientists. Located 400 light years from earth the planet boasts rings 200 times bigger than the rings of Saturn.
In fact if Saturn’s rings were the size of J1407b, they would be prominent in the earth’s sky.
3. HD 188753 – The planet with three stars
This planet is remarkable because it is located in a solar system with three stars. This means if you were standing on the surface of the planet, you would have triple shadows, you would see a sunset no matter what direction you looked in and you would also witness regular solar eclipses.
2. GJ 1214b – The Ocean Planet
42 light years away floats quite a remarkable planet. GJ 1214b is a planet that has no land, it is entirely covered by water. The massive ocean stretches miles deep to the planets core.
Scientists have nicknamed this planet ‘the Waterworld’.
1. Gliese 436 b- Burning Ice Planet
You read that right… Yes, Gliese 436 b is a planet coated in ice that is perpetually in flames.
How is that possible?
Gliese 436 b orbits its star at the extremely close radius of around 25 million miles. To put this in perspective, Mercury, which gets hots enough to melt lead, orbits the sun at 36 million miles. The close proximity to its star as well as the greenhouse effect has scientists predicting the surface area of the planet to be a staggering 439°C.
But astonishingly because the gravity on Gliese 436 b is so strong, the atmospheric pressure is huge compared with that of our planet, Earth.
This huge atmospheric pressure causes the water particles on its surface to be pushed together into a solid state, ice, and the result is this marvellous contradiction.