Thursday, August 25, 2011

Which Exoplanets Are Weird in the Most Interesting Ways?

There are three really cool ones:

A densely packed solar system - 2,000 light years away, Kepler-11 has a solar system with 6 planets. 5 of them orbit closer to their star than Mercury orbits the sun.

The darkest planet yet discovered - GSC 03549-02811, about 750 light years away, has an albedo of 0.01 (1 is perfectly white, 0 is perfectly black). Absorbance differences have been discussed as a biosignature - is this how a planet covered with a very effective antenna biomolecule or solar panel would look?

An inexplicable hotspot - Hotspots can appear on the side of a planet facing its star. They can even be spread by wind. But gas giant Andromedae B has a hotspot that's turned almost perpendicular to its star, and current models can't explain this.

From Daily Caller.

Of course I'm thinking about aliens. For that I would say the packed solar system. Making the huge assumption that aliens at all like us need energy, an easy place to get it is from a star. (The universe is primarily about gravity. Gravity is converted to nuclear fusion to electromagnetic radiation to redox chemistry here on Earth; ultimately even our ecosystem is driven by gravity.) So the more planets in the habitable zone, the more energy you have and the more robust and bigger is your ecosystem and economy. Therefore my money is on the packed solar system. If there's anything weird going on, that's where it is.

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