Man has always dreamed of travelling across the vast expanses of the Universe. But there are very dangerous planets where such a traveller would face certain death. I will tell you about them today.
There are many planets in the Universe, but most of them are unremarkable. However, there are objects that fascinate astronomers with the incredible conditions on these planets, which make the blood run cold. Let’s take a look at the list of the most dangerous planets known to mankind. Some of them are really scary.
The number of planets in the known Universe is estimated to be at least hundreds of billions. The closest exoplanet to Earth, Proxima Centauri b, is four light-years away, and we still don’t know as much about it as we would like. Typically, astronomers look for planets that could support life. However, there are currently about 10,000 special space objects known to exist, where life would face enormous difficulties and mortal danger. In this article, we will tell you about celestial bodies on which, even in a special protective suit, a person would have no chance of survival.
Planet WASP-76b, which has “iron” rains
It is one of the most dangerous planets discovered by scientists in the Universe. It was first spotted through a telescope in 2013.
The amazing planet WASP-76b is located at a distance of about 640 light years from us in the constellation Pisces. It is almost twice the size of Jupiter and belongs to a fairly young star system that is 1.5 times more massive, 1.75 times larger and 600 degrees hotter than our Sun.
The most interesting thing is that the exoplanet WASP-76b is tidally tethered to its star BD+01 316. This means that it is always facing the star with the same “daytime” side, while its other side is immersed in eternal darkness.
This feature causes its surface to heat up to 2500°C, which is a sufficient temperature for iron to evaporate. Strong winds then carry the iron vapour to the colder “night” side (1000°C), where it condenses into droplets and falls to the surface of WASP-76b as iron rain.
Planet Gliese 1132b with two atmospheres
Using NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have found signs of volcanic activity altering the atmosphere of Gliese 1132b, a rocky exoplanet similar to Earth in size, mass and age. However, it is much closer to its star, Gliese 1132.
In fact, Gliese 1132 is a red dwarf located 39.3 light-years away in the constellation Vela. Also known as GJ 1132, the star is five times smaller, much colder and dimmer than our Sun, because its radiation is 200 times weaker than the Sun’s.
There is at least one planet near this red dwarf – Gliese 1132b, recently discovered by the MEarth-South Observatory. This exoplanet is about 1.2 times larger than the Earth, and its mass is 1.6 times that of the Earth.
It orbits the host star in 1.6 days at a distance of 1.4 million miles. As a result, the planet heats up to a temperature of around 232°C. That is, the powerful radiation from its own star is already a problem. However, the most interesting thing is that this object has two atmospheres. New Hubble observations have revealed a secondary atmosphere that has replaced the first atmosphere of Gliese 1132b. The new atmosphere is rich in hydrogen, hydrogen cyanide, methane, and ammonia, and has a hydrocarbon fog.
Astronomers suggest that hydrogen from the primordial atmosphere was absorbed by the planet’s molten magma mantle and is now slowly being released by volcanoes, forming a new atmosphere. Extensive volcanic activity leads to the release of huge amounts of gases with very harmful chemical compositions into the planet’s atmosphere. All this is due to powerful tidal forces from the star. It is now known that this second atmosphere is constantly replenished with a large amount of hydrogen from the mantle’s magma. That is, it would be impossible for a person to survive here.
Ice exoplanet OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb
Using a network of telescopes scattered around the world, astronomers have recently discovered a new extrasolar planet much more similar to Earth than any other planet found so far, using the Danish 1.54-metre telescope at ESO La Silla in Chile. It is the icy exoplanet OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb.
The planet, which is about 5 times larger than the Earth, orbits its parent star in about 10 years. It is the least massive exoplanet around a regular star discovered so far, and also the coldest. The planet is likely to have a rocky icy surface. Its discovery marks a significant step forward in the search for planets that support life.
OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb belongs to a group of planets called super-Earths. It is located near the centre of the Milky Way, making it one of the most distant planets. A characteristic feature of this exoplanet is its very low temperature of -220°C. It is the coldest known planet in space. OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb was discovered using gravitational microlensing, and due to its great distance, scientists are not sure what type of planet it is. If it is a rocky planet, its surface is likely to consist of frozen volatiles. It is likely that the exoplanet has a thin atmosphere, like the Earth, but its rocky surface is deeply buried under frozen oceans. This planet is very similar to Uranus in its conditions. In both cases, there is virtually no chance that it could be habitable.
Free planet OGLE-2016-BLG-1928
OGLE-2016-BLG-1928 is a so-called “free-floating” planet, i.e. an object that has been freed from the gravity of its star and is travelling in the Universe. Our Galaxy may be teeming with such free-floating planets, gravitationally unbound to any star. An international team of scientists from the OGLE group at the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Warsaw has provided the first evidence of such planets in the Milky Way. The OGLE astronomers announced the discovery of the smallest free-floating planet the size of the Earth found to date.
Exoplanets can rarely be observed directly. Astronomers usually find planets by observing the light of the planet’s host star. For example, if a planet passes in front of the disc of its parent star, the observed brightness of the star periodically drops slightly, causing so-called transits.
Astronomers suspect that free-floating planets actually formed in protoplanetary discs around stars (like “normal” planets), but they were ejected from their parent planetary systems after gravitational interaction with other bodies, such as other planets in the system. Theories of planet formation predict that ejecta should typically be smaller than the Earth. Thus, studying free-floating planets allows us to understand the tumultuous past of young planetary systems such as our solar system.
But it is the lack of access to the energy of the parent star that makes OGLE-2016-BLG-1928 a completely dead planet. No life form can exist there. Such exoplanets usually just travel around the Universe, colliding with other planets and stars. And over time, they simply disappear into outer space.
Water exoplanet GJ 1214 b
In 2009, astronomers using the transit method discovered the exoplanet GJ 1214 b, located at a distance of just under 50 light years from us. This method takes advantage of the fact that the planet’s orbit is oriented in such a way that it regularly crosses its central star, and occultation slightly reduces the star’s brightness. These measurements allowed us to calculate its size – 2.5-3 times the diameter of the Earth. The mass of the exoplanet is about seven Earth masses, which classifies GJ 1214 b as a mini-Neptune.
This is the so-called super-Earth, which orbits the star GJ 1214 and is theoretically very similar to our planet. This means that the planet is in what is known as a tidally closed rotation. In other words, it takes the same amount of time for the planet to orbit the star as it takes for the star to rotate on its axis. Consequently, the main star always illuminates and heats the same side of the planet. Winds carry the air to the opposite hemisphere, where it cools down in the eternal night.
The exoplanet GJ 1214 b is composed mainly of water, probably in combination with hydrogen. Due to the high temperatures and very high pressure, water exists there in forms that are not found on Earth, such as hot ice and in a supercritical state. It is estimated that the atmosphere of GJ 1214b itself may be up to 200 km thick and composed of water vapour, and the oceans beneath it may be up to a thousand kilometres deep and account for 88% of the mass of the entire planet.
Rocky little exoplanet Kepler-10b
The planet, called Kepler-10b, was the first rocky exoplanet to be confirmed by NASA’s Kepler mission based on data collected between May 2009 and early January 2010. However, although Kepler-10b is a rocky world, it is not located in the so-called habitable zone, an area of the planetary system where liquid water could potentially exist on the planet’s surface.
Kepler-10b orbits its parent star in 0.84 days, which means that this planet is more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our Sun, putting it outside the parameters of the habitable zone.
The parent star of Kepler-10 is located about 560 light-years away and is about the same size as our Sun. The star is estimated to be 8 billion years old.
Kepler 10b is a typical lava world and another planet on this list tidally tethered to its star, around which it orbits in less than one Earth day. This proximity means that the temperature there exceeds 1300°C. Models show that it is a rocky object with a large iron core.
It is assumed that the influence of the star, composition and temperature makes Kepler-10b an extremely active planet. It is likely to be completely covered by active volcanoes, which means that it should have high thunderstorm activity. Scientists have calculated that in the short time that Kepler-10b crosses the disc of its star – about 2 hours – it should be struck by 100 million to 2 trillion lightning bolts.
Upsilon Andromeda b
Upsilon Andromeda b is a giant gas planet that orbits very close to Upsilon Andromeda, a star located 40 light-years from our solar system in the constellation Andromeda. One side of this exoplanet is always hot, like lava, and the other side is cooled.
This exoplanet was discovered in 1996. Back then, it was called “hot Jupiter” because the gas giant orbits its star in a very narrow orbit in 4.6 days. Two other planets also surround Upsilon Andromeda, but more about them later.
Upsilon Andromeda b absorbs and then radiates heat from its star, so one side is always hotter than the other. It is also possible that the planet is tidally tethered to its star in the same way as the Moon and Earth, so that one side of the planet is always facing its star and is always heated by it. On the “daytime” side, the temperature exceeds 1600°C, while on the other side it is -20°C at this time. According to scientists, this is the largest temperature difference ever observed on the planet. It is worth adding that Upsilon Andromeda b is a typical gas giant with a radius 1.25 times larger than that of Jupiter. The observation of Upsilon Andromeda b completely changes our understanding of hot gas giant exoplanets.
The inhospitable exoplanet HD 189733 b
HD 189733 b is a beautiful blue gas giant whose appearance is somewhat deceptive. This is an exoplanet that no sane traveller would want to go to, as the conditions there are among the harshest in space.
HD 189733 b is located at a distance of 64.5 light-years from us in the direction of the constellation of Chanterelles. The mass of HD 189733 b is 16% greater than that of Jupiter, and the exoplanet is a bright blue gas giant.
HD 189733 b is incredibly hot, with temperatures ranging from 1066°C to 1266°C, and according to some reports, it can even reach 1800°C.
For comparison, the melting point of iron is 1538°C, so even if you have an Iron Man suit, it is unlikely to protect you on this planet.
The exoplanet also has very strong winds. Here, they blow at a speed of 8700 km/h, which means that the wind speed is 7 times higher than the speed of sound. But the most interesting thing is that HD 189733 b has horizontal rains of glass fragments. The planet’s atmosphere contains a large amount of silicon particles. The high temperature turns the silicon particles into glass, and then the wind carries the glass fragments over the entire surface. This picture resembles a tornado, but made of glass.
The hellish exoplanet 55 Cancri-e
Molten rocks, lava flows and temperatures between 1400°C and 2700°C. Welcome to the exoplanet 55 Cancri-e. This fireball, located 40 light years from Earth, is covered with magma seas.
This star looks like the Moon. NASA says that the exoplanet constantly shows its sun side, just like the Earth’s natural satellite. Therefore, the surface is divided into two parts with a temperature difference of almost 1300°C. Indeed, the “daytime” side is covered with lava and turns golden in colour. The “night” side remains in complete darkness and consists only of stones.
It is a unique world in many ways. This planet is only twice the size of Earth, but its mass is almost nine times greater. As its temperature exceeds 2000°C, NASA scientists suggest that the “dark” side of 55 Cancri-e may be composed of graphite and diamonds. For this reason, it is called the most valuable planet in the world. Its conditional estimated value is 384 quadrillion times higher than the total GDP of the Earth.
Exoplanet HR-5183-b with a looping orbit
The exoplanet HR-5183-b is another superJupiter, this time with a very specific orbit. This gas giant is unlike any other known planet. It is three times the size of Jupiter and orbits its star in an amazing way. Describing an elongated, incredibly eccentric orbit, HR-5183-b spends most of its time within its planetary system, and relatively briefly approaching its star.
It looks as if a planet in the solar system sometimes travels in the main asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter, sometimes beyond the orbit of Neptune. However, while exoplanets with very eccentric orbits have been discovered before, none have ever been so far away from their star.
Why does this happen? While most planets orbit in an elliptical (close to circular) orbit, HR 5183 b’s orbit is egg-shaped. Therefore, most of the time it orbits the outer part of the planetary system, only to accelerate from time to time and orbit its star at a tremendous speed. Moreover, the orbit of HR 5183 b intersects with other orbits of planets in the same system, so sooner or later, a collision between them will occur. One possible explanation for this trajectory is that HR 5183 b once had a neighbouring planet whose gravity deflected the exoplanet.
Poltergeist PSR B1257+12
Poltergeist PSR B1257+12 is an exoplanet located at a distance of approximately 1957 light years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. It is the first exoplanet to be discovered, one of three pulsar planets orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12. The planet was discovered in 1991 by Polish astronomer Alex Wolschan using the method of regular pulsations. In 2015, it was named Poltergeist. The pulsar PSR B1257+12 itself was named Lich at the same time.
The planet is more than 4 times heavier than the Earth, and orbits its star at a distance of 0.36 AU in about 66.5 days. Because it and the other planet Draugr have very close orbits and masses, they cause perturbations in each other’s orbits. Studying these perturbations has allowed scientists to more accurately determine the masses of the planets.
PSR B1257+12 is located in a system that became a graveyard after a giant supernova explosion. The remaining core of the old star is now a pulsar and emits intense beams of radiation that continue to hit Poltergeist and the other two planets in the system. That is, the intense radioactive radiation makes it impossible for any life forms to exist on PSR B1257+12.
If you think that dangerous planets are located somewhere outside our solar system, you are very much mistaken.
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There are also objects in our solar system that are not friendly to life. Venus is one of them. With a parched red-orange landscape and surface temperatures high enough to melt lead, conditions on Venus resemble hell.
This planet is known to be toxic and unbearably hot. A thick, extremely acidic cloud layer envelops the rocky planet, trapping so much heat that the surface temperature reaches almost 460°C. Venus is even hotter than Mercury.
The Earth’s “sister” is known for its very high pressure. The atmosphere of Venus is so heavy that the pressure on the planet’s surface is more than 90 times higher than on Earth. There is no liquid water on the surface of Venus, and thousands of massive volcanoes, some of which are still active, create hellish conditions.
Venus is also known for its deadly sulphuric acid rains. Unlike the blue skies we see on Earth, the sky on Venus is always red-orange because of the way carbon dioxide molecules scatter sunlight. You won’t see the Sun as a clear object in this sky, but rather as a hazy, yellowish glow behind dense clouds, and the night sky will be black and starless.
High in the atmosphere of Venus, wind speeds reach 400 km/h – faster than tornadoes and hurricanes on Earth. But on the planet’s surface, the wind is only about 3 km/h. And although there are powerful lightning bolts in the planet’s atmosphere, the dazzling flashes never reach the surface.
Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System
It is the largest planet in the Solar System, with a fascinating and terrifying appearance. It seems that astronomers have guessed the name of this planet exactly.
Extreme conditions prevail on this huge gas ball. Firstly, the planet has high atmospheric pressure and is also known for its hurricane winds. The average temperature on Jupiter is -110°C, but we shouldn’t forget about the so-called heat waves, when the temperature jumps above 700°C. That is, in a short time, the giant gas giant turns from an ice ball into a hellish frying pan from the realm of Hades.
Jupiter has a permanent anticyclone known as the Great Red Spot. This cyclopean storm is located south of its equator and has a diameter of 24,000 km and a height of 12-14,000 km. It is large enough to contain two or three Earth-sized planets. And this spot has been around for at least 350 years, as it was first spotted back in the 17th century.
The closer you get to the centre of Jupiter, the more difficult the conditions become. At some point, the temperature reaches a level higher than that of the Sun’s surface. Add to this the fact that Jupiter’s magnetic field is 14 times stronger than Earth’s. The interaction of the magnetosphere with the solar wind generates a dangerous radiation belt that can cause damage to spacecraft.
Distant and cold Neptune
At first glance, Neptune may seem like a serene sapphire world. But don’t let its quiet blue hues fool you: the eighth planet from the Sun is a wild beast. This planet of the solar system is also called the “ice giant”. Neptune consists mainly of hydrogen, ammonia, helium and methane in solid form, and its atmosphere is very active. When our solar system was forming, about 4.5 billion years ago, Neptune probably formed from a huge ancient cloud of gas, dust and ice that coagulated into a rotating disc with our Sun at its centre.
Different parts of Neptune can rotate at different speeds because the planet is not a solid. Neptune’s equator appears to rotate in 18 hours, while its polar regions rotate in 12 hours. This difference in rotational speed between different parts of the planet is the largest of any planet and causes the strongest winds in the solar system, with speeds of up to 2100 km/h!
Neptune takes 165 years to make one complete revolution around the Sun. This calming sapphire colour really does hide the chaos that rages below, in the form of cloud bands and massive swirls that look like dark spots on its surface.
Neptune’s blue colour is caused by methane in its atmosphere, which absorbs red light. Scientists do not know for sure why Uranus and Neptune have different shades of blue, despite having very similar atmospheres. Similar to Jupiter’s atmosphere, Neptune’s atmosphere contains many storm systems such as the Great Dark Spot, which is about as wide as the Earth.
The planet’s outer atmosphere is one of the coldest places, with a temperature of around -226.5°C. However, in the centre of Neptune, temperatures can reach 5100°C, enough to melt rock.
Space is not friendly to humans. Planets other than Earth are mostly deadly for us. It is unlikely that a new planet, the notional New Earth, will have the conditions necessary for people to live on it without the help of advanced technology. Most planets are very dangerous for humans because of extreme temperatures, high atmospheric pressure, fast winds, radiation, etc. But humanity is still trying to explore outer space, because that’s how it works.