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5 Awesome Planets We Used to Think Were in Our Solar System

#2. Rogue Planets

Rogue planets are planet-size bodies that don't orbit any star, instead choosing to drift around the galaxy, beholden to no master, righting wrongs and helping strangers.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment
Sort of like the Kung Fu of astronomical bodies.

These things almost certainly exist, possibly in great numbers, although there's no evidence that any of them have passed anywhere near our solar system, which is why science fiction writers just had to lie about that part when they used them. Like in the recent film Melancholia, which is about love, and also a rogue planet that smacks into Earth. Then there's Flash Gordon, which is not really about love, but about two-fisted adventures on a rogue planet called Mongo. Also, Doctor Who famously dealt with a rogue planet called Mondas, populated by the sinister Cybermen.


Well. As sinister as 1960s special effects could make them.

#1. Counter-Earth

So we're on the Earth, right?

Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
Correct.

And it spins around and also orbits around the sun, which gives us a pretty clear look at the entire solar system, right? Except for what's on the other side of the sun, that is, so if there was somehow another planet always shifting around to keep the sun between us and it, like some master of interplanetary hide and seek, we'd never know about it, right?

David De Lossy/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Yeah, nice try, Uranus, you fat fucking whale.

This kind of makes sense because of what we know about the sun (it's big) and the basic properties of circles. But once you get past about an eighth grade understanding of astronomy, the whole idea falls apart. Basically, if there was another planet on the other side of the sun, it'd have obvious, measurable effects on the orbits of Venus and Mars, unless it was small, in which case it'd be knocked around enough by Venus and Mars to make it visible to us again.

Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Still, despite the fact that the universe won't allow it, that hasn't stopped the idea being used approximately a billion times in various science fiction settings. Marvel, notably, has used at least three different Counter-Earths at various times in their comic books.

Stockbyte/Getty Images
Which I'd summarize here, except I refuse to subject myself or anyone else to the horror of learning about Marvel continuity.

And you can see the appeal. From a literary perspective, the idea of a Counter-Earth is just dripping in symbolic potential and has been used many times as sort of a fun-house mirror in which writers try to reflect some point they're making about Earth or humanity.

Also space-fucking. It's a great place to set lots of space-fucking.

Carmen Martinez Banus/iStock/Getty Images
Did you seriously think these guys were getting up in the middle of the night to stare at stars?


Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and has written thousands of stories about space-fucking. Join him on Facebook or Twitter and beg him to share some with you.

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