5 Real Planets Way Weirder Than Anything in Science Fiction

#2. The Planet Getting Hit by Drive-Bys

David Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Kepler-36b is a small, rocky planet about 1.5 times the size of Earth. For eons, it has been the subject of constant abuse by its big brother Kepler-36c, a Neptune-like gas giant. The two planets circle a star in the Cygnus constellation more closely than any other planetary system we know about. This unfortunately means that once in a while they get close enough for the larger globe to cause some serious damage to the smaller one. When the two Keplers move into perfect alignment, the larger 36c basically executes a drive-by on 36b, only instead of bullets, it uses its massive gravitational force to turn its rocky sibling into earthquake central, triggering volcanic devastation all across its surface.

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Puts Biggie/ Tupac into some perspective.

The worst part is that 36b doesn't even have one shaky moment to recover between these attacks. By the time volcanoes finish erupting all over the planet, 36c is back in the neighborhood, stinking of cheap hooch and wrecking up the place again. It happens every 97 days, like clockwork. Kepler-36b has been experiencing near-total devastation every three months, starting back when Cthulhu was just beginning to hit puberty, and yet it still stands, presumably growing angrier each day. We all know how this story goes: You can only push the little guy so far before he snaps and starts stabbing somebody with a fork during Thanksgiving dinner. We give Kepler-36c a few more millennia until its little brother finally can't take any more and kicks it in whatever the planet equivalent of an ass is.

The South Pole?

#1. The Planet Where Glass Rains Sideways at 4,000 mph

NASA, ESA, M. Kornmesser

HD 189773b's outward appearance is deceptive. At first glance, it's probably the closest to Earth's distinctly habitable look that you'll find: another plain old blue ball, no rings or flames or unyielding blackness. It looks like it might even have clouds or sentient alien life forms that haven't yet discovered what irredeemable assholes we are. Why aren't we on our way there yet?!

Getty Images/Photodisc/Getty Images
"But all my shit is here."

Unfortunately, HD 189773b is a bit of a cosmic exploration cocktease. Far from habitable, HD 189773b is a planet where it literally rains shards of glass.

HD 189773b has a large amount of silicate particles in its atmosphere that happen to scatter blue light. This blue coloring is made all the more prominent when temperatures on the planet (roughly the same ones as those inside a volcano) condense the silicate particles into glass and fling them down and sideways at speeds up to 4,000 mph. Yep: a global glass tornado. That's a premise so outlandish, even SyFy wouldn't touch it. So while it may look like a lovely vacation spot, just remember that HD 189773b is not so much a planet as it is the largest blender in the known universe.

Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
Perfect for those who enjoy their smoothies with a generous helping of hypersonic glass shards.


Andrew is a writer, musician, and aspiring biologist.

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Related Reading: Still not convinced? Gliese 436 is coated in burning ice. Oh yeah, and somewhere out there is a whole planet made of diamond. If your mind isn't blown yet, maybe these creepy sounds from space can do the trick.

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