What’s a planet? The fact that we’re living on one does not make it any easy to define one. Never mind! We hope you know what we mean. However, planets are not only within our solar system, and since the 1990s, astronomers discovered the first extrasolar planets orbiting stars far away in the Milky Way Galaxy. As weird as you think they are, it’s not only the sun that has the ability to cook up planets, this plays itself always; it seems stars have brought forth some incredibly amazing exoplanets. Here are some weird forms of exoplanets in our galaxy.
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#1. Chthonian Planet
This theoretical form of a planet is formed when a star stripes away the hydrogen and helium in the atmosphere of a hot giant with intense radiation, a process known as a hydrodynamic escape. These planets are then left with a rocky metallic core, which may resemble terrestrial planets, but are far denser.
But in 2020, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) made the discovery of TOI 849 b, which did fit the bill of a Chthonian planet. This exoplanet orbits so tightly close to its star that a year is just 18 hours long. That sounds like a birthday party every minute, but this accounts for a 1,530 degrees Celsius (… degrees Fahrenheit), so your birthday cake wouldn’t last long.
#2. Hot Neptunes
Their names suggest that they are quite like Neptune, but hotter. Also known as Hoptunes, these are gas giants which orbit close to their parent stars — typically within less than one astronomical unit (AU) away (that’s closer than the Earth is to the sun). In 2004, the discovery of Gliese 436 b, (also GJ 436 b), a hot Neptune that was located approximately 30 lightyears away, orbiting a red dwarf known as Gliese 436. This was the first hot Neptune discovered with precision.
#3. Gas Dwarfs
Gas dwarfs (you guessed it) are cousins of hot Neptunes and are known as mini Neptunes or Minitunes. How cute. These are planets with similar composition and density as that of giant planets, but it’s more like that of an ice giant with a lower mass in comparison. However, the difference in the mass and size of gas dwarfs aren’t the same as that of gas and ice giants, but due to stellar irradiation, they can become as huge as giant planets.
#4. Carbon Planet
These planets are also known as diamond planets or carbide planets. It’s a theoretical type of terrestrial planet that was first proposed by Marc Kuchner with an internal layer of diamond many kilometers thick. Carbon planets form when the protoplanetary discs found around stars are rich in carbon and poor in oxygen. They develop differently from known terrestrial planets like that of Venus, Earth, and Mars — mostly made up of silicon-oxygen compounds.
#5. Pulsar Planet
These are planets that are found orbiting rapidly rotating neutron stars, also known as (you guessed it) pulsars. The first of such planets were discovered around a millisecond pulsar and were the first confirmed exoplanets. These planets are discovered through the precise timing measurements of the pulsation periods of pulsars. Their discovery was unexpected since pulsars are remnants of a supernova, and it’s believed any planets around them were destroyed.
#6. Rogue Planet
Last on this list, are planets on the run. Our general idea of a planet is any chunk of matter (rocky or gassy) that’s in orbit around a star, right? But just as their name suggests, rogue planets are wandering in space. They were once upon a time orbiting a star but due to certain factors, went rogue. From a supernova to a star too less massive to hold on its planets to who-knows-what in the emptiness of space would a planet runway. Rogue planets are the weirdest form planets there are.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, Jan 10, 2021.