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Editor's choiceExoplanets: Weird, Wondrous Worlds

Exoplanets: Weird, Wondrous Worlds [Video]

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There’s a huge amount of variety among exoplanets – planets outside our solar system. There are water worlds, lava planets, egg-shaped worlds, planets with multiple suns, and even planets with no sun at all! What can we learn from all this weird, wondrous variety? What does it tell us about both the exoplanets themselves and our own home planet?


Video transcript:

[Narrator] Earth is awesome.

What would be even more awesome, if we found another earth, or a bunch of earths.

That’s one of the things we’re looking for at NASA as we study exoplanets, planets outside our solar system.

But maybe searching for a planet similar to our own, where conditions might have led to an entirely unique origin of life, finally telling us that we’re not alone in the universe, maybe that’s not your thing.

That’s cool.

Maybe you’re more interested in just how weird exoplanets can be.

We think there are entire worlds covered by deep oceans, water worlds.

Not weird enough for you?

Okay. How about planets covered entirely in oceans of lava?

There are egg-shaped planets, worlds that orbit so close to their stars that they’re pulled by gravity into a lopsided shape.

And there are planets where conditions might be just right for it to rain things like glass, or even rubies and sapphires.

There are planets that orbit pairs and even groups of stars. Imagine having three or four suns in the sky!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the loners, rogue planets wandering out in space with no star to call their own.

There are even planets that orbit dead stars, stars that exploded long ago and left behind a rapidly spinning core called a pulsar. Some of these pulsar planets could be among the oldest in our galaxy, pushing 13 billion years.

Such planets would have witnessed most of the history of the universe. Sadly, nearly all of it without tacos.

Now, we think that we haven’t found one yet, that there probably are exoplanets pretty similar to earth out there.

But in the meantime, there are absolutely tons of weird, wondrous worlds in our galaxy.

(jaunty music)

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