Friday, 17 June 2011

The Strangest Planets

I've been very interested in the planets astronomers are detecting around other suns. What they are finding is so unexpected, and so different to what we have previously imagined possible.

But is it really that strange? Life seems to evolve and adapt to all kinds of conditions, so why can't planets.

There are Jupiter sized planets out there orbiting so close to their suns their surface temperatures are thousands of degrees. Worlds with extreme eliciptical orbits. Massive rocky planets three times and half a dozen times as massive as the Earth. Planets that are 12 billion years old (consider the Universe is only 13.7 billion years old). Planets that are covered in oceans many hundreds of kilometres thick. Planets, it seems, appear wherever they can survive, just like life.

I feel that strange planets are going to turn space opera on its head. Authors like Larry Niven and Alastair Reynolds are great at creating bizarre worlds, but planets are going to be even more extreme, I think, than what we've seen in the best space opera. It's going to be even more of a challenge to write in this genre now.

Check out this slide show of strange planets at to see just what it is that astronomers are detecting out there in the Big Black.

No comments: