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House of Horrors: Exoplanet Edition

House of Horrors: Exoplanet Edition

Astronomers may be closer than ever to discovering a planet that’s habitable like our own, but along the way they’ve discovered some very scary exoplanets – places where conditions are far too harsh for life as we know it to exist.

Okay, but what IS an exoplanet???


We’ve rounded up some of the most frightening, deadly exoplanets, places that make even the scariest haunted house on Earth pale in comparison. Check them out…

Radiation Bath, Anyone?

The exoplanets PSR B1257+12 B, C & D were among the first discovered, and also happened to be three of the weirdest! The entire system is a graveyard, remnants of what used to be a normal, functional solar system before the star blew apart in a giant explosion known as a supernova.


The massive shockwave from the supernova stripped away any atmosphere or living creatures that might have once lived on these planets, leaving behind ghostly, rocky shells, dead planets orbiting the corpse of an extinct star.

Except that the system isn’t completely dead…the remaining core from the old star has become a zombie star called a pulsar. Literally spinning in its grave, it makes a full rotation every 6.22 milliseconds and emits an intense beam of radiation that can be detected from Earth. The star’s unfortunate planets are thus bathed in deadly radiation on a regular basis, making sure that this system remains a cosmic no-man’s land.

A Mighty Wind

The sound of howling wind is a must for any Earth-based haunted house, but weather conditions on HD 189733 b make it a very dangerous place to go trick-or-treating.

At first glance, this exoplanet looks like the typical “hot Jupiter” — a huge gas planet perched dangerously to a burning-hot star, with daytime temperatures around a balmy 1,770 degrees Fahrenheit. This exoplanet is also “tidally locked” in its orbit, which means that the same side of the planet always faces its star.


But when scientists measured the planet’s nighttime temperature, they were shocked to find that it was only 500 degrees cooler. How does the back side of the planet stay so warm?

The answer is wind! Insanely fast, dangerous wind that whisks heat from day-side to night-side at a speed of 4,500 mph, nearly six times the speed of sound! In fact, astronomers estimate that wind speeds might top out at 5,400 mph, conditions that make hurricanes on Earth look like a breezy day at the beach.

Newborn Exoplanet Around Scorching Star

This exoplanet, named K2-33b, is the youngest fully formed exoplanet ever detected. This planet is a bit larger than Neptune and whips tightly around its star every five days. Since this planet sits nearly 10 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun, it’s HOT!


No matter how cute you think infants are, this is one baby you’d want to stay away from.

Boil, Boil, Toil and Trouble

The planet HD 209458 b (aka. Osiris – the god of death) has a few things in common with Earth: water vapor, methane and carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, key ingredients for life on our planet. Don’t be fooled, though, because this planet is a rolling cauldron of almost unimaginable heat.


Even the hottest summer days on Earth don’t get as dangerous as the conditions here. A planet that orbits so close to its host star that its atmosphere is literally boiling off, ripped away from the planet as it whips around on its breakneck 3.5-day orbit.

All Alone and Very, Very Cold

While most of the exoplanets found so far are hellishly hot, OGLE-2005-BLG-390L b has the distinction of being extremely cold.

The planet takes about 10 Earth years to orbit its tiny dwarf star, and it’s a chilly trip; the average temperature on this exoplanet is 50 Kelvin, or minus 370 degrees Fahrenheit! A good costume for trick-or-treating on this frigid planet would be a toasty self-heating spacesuit, an oxygen supply, ice skates and plenty of hot cocoa.


Of course, don’t expect to find many houses with candy here, because despite the fact that it’s just a few times bigger than Earth, this exoplanet is an uninhabitable ice ball stuck in a perpetual winter freeze.

A Scorched World

Kepler-10b is a scorched world, orbiting at a distance that’s more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our own sun. The daytime temperatures are expected to be more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than lava flows here on Earth. 


Intense radiation from the star has kept the planet from holding onto an atmosphere, but flecks of silicates and iron that have boiled off a molten surface are swept away by the stellar radiation.

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