Our planet, cozy, warm, and blessed with an abundance of carbon and water, is such an anomaly in our solar system. When we talk about “strange planets,” Earth is probably the strangest.
After all, in the hundreds of billions of planets in our galaxy, we’re the only one (we know of) that can support such diversity of life. We’re the odd one out. But, when we turn our collective gaze from our navels out into the inky vastness of space, there are some other genuinely peculiar celestial bodies out there. Here are the five strangest planets in the galaxy.
The coolest planet in our solar system is Saturn (this isn’t up for debate). What grants Saturn this title are its rings. They’re asteroids, moons, and comets that the planet ripped apart with its massive gravity and then held in place as a warning to the rest of outer space. J1407b is like Saturn, only 640 times bigger. Within J1407b’s rings is a gap in which a single moon orbits, strong enough to resist gravity’s shattering force.
You don’t think about how blessed we are to have a daily rotation. We get (sort of) equal parts day and night, if not every day, over the year. For some planets, like Gliese 581, they’re locked in place, unable to turn, so one side always faces the sun and the other faces space. But in the eternal twilight of the two faces, there may be inhabitable land that supports life. Earth took that gamble and sent a radio message to Gliese 581, which should arrive in 2029.
We can all agree that the best Kevin Costner movie was Waterworld. The polar ice caps had melted, Mt. Everest was now a tropical island, and he had gills and webbed feet. A cinematic exploration of the consequences of climate change, or a documentary about Gj 1214b? You decide. It’s an ocean planet, bigger and warmer than Jupiter’s moon Europa–so probably just covered in giant squid monsters.
55 Cancri E
Once we’ve exhausted the diamond mines on Earth, this is where we’re headed. 55 Cancri E is just 40 light-years away (basically next door), on a super-fast 18-hour orbit around a carbon-heavy star. It’s twice as big as Earth but far denser, and because of its chemical makeup, likely covered in diamonds.
Want a get rich quick scheme for the ages? Head to Cygnus constellation. You’ll have to tag-team it because the trip will take 1000 years at light speed, or about a year at Warp 9. It’ll be worth it once you get there because every night, storms gather in the corundum-rich atmosphere. Corundum is the mineral responsible for rubies and sapphires. The tumultuous storms likely cast them across the entire surface of the planet.