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10 Intriguing Worlds Beyond Our Solar System

10 Intriguing Worlds Beyond Our Solar System

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the first confirmed planet around a sun-like star, a collection of some interesting exoplanets has been put together. Some of these are rocky, some are gaseous and some are very, very cold. But there’s one thing each these strange new worlds have in common: All have advanced scientific understanding of our place in the cosmos. Check out these 10 exoplanets, along with artist’s concepts depicting what they might look like. For an extended list of 20 exoplanets, go HERE. 

1. Kepler-186f

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Kepler-186f was the first rocky planet to be found within the habitable zone – the region around the host star where the temperature is right for liquid water. This planet is also very close in size to Earth. Even though we may not find out what’s going on at the surface of this planet anytime soon, it’s a strong reminder of why new technologies are being developed that will enable scientists to get a closer look at distance worlds. 

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2. HD 209458 b (nickname “Osiris”)

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The first planet to be seen in transit (crossing its star) and the first planet to have it light directly detected. The HD 209458 b transit discovery showed that transit observations were feasible and opened up an entire new realm of exoplanet characterization.

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3. Kepler-11 system

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This was the first compact solar system discovered by Kepler, and it revealed that a system can be tightly packed, with at least five planets within the orbit of Mercury, and still be stable. It touched off a whole new look into planet formation ideas and suggested that multiple small planet systems, like ours, may be common.

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4. Kepler-16b

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A real-life “Tatooine,” this planet was Kepler’s first discovery of a planet that orbits two stars – what is known as a circumbinary planet.

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5. 51 Pegasi b

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This giant planet, which is about half the mass of Jupiter and orbits its star every four days, was the first confirmed exoplanet around a sun-like star, a discovery that launched a whole new field of exploration.

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6. CoRoT 7b

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The first super-Earth identified as a rocky exoplanet, this planet proved that worlds like the Earth were indeed possible and that the search for potentially habitable worlds (rocky planets in the habitable zone) might be fruitful.

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7. Kepler-22b

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A planet in the habitable zone and a possible water-world planet unlike any seen in our solar system.

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8. Kepler-10b

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Kepler’s first rocky planet discovery is a scorched, Earth-size world that scientists believe may have a lava ocean on its surface.

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9. Kepler-444 system

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The oldest known planetary system has five terrestrial-sized planets, all in orbital resonance. This weird group showed that solar systems have formed and lived in our galaxy for nearly its entire existence.

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10. 55 Cancri e

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Sauna anyone? 55 Cancri e is a toasty world that rushes around its star every 18 hours. It orbits so closely – about 25 times closer than Mercury is to our sun – that it is tidally locked with one face forever blistering under the heat of its sun. The planet is proposed to have a rocky core surrounded by a layer of water in a “supercritical” state, where it is both liquid and gas, and then the whole planet is thought to be topped by a blanket of steam. 

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