FROM NEAR-EARTHS TO BIZARRE planets with oven-hot surfaces, comet-like tails or a seasonal temperature variations of 700°C, our galaxy is filled with a host of weird and wonderful worlds.
So far more than 350 exoplanets – planets that orbit other stars – have been discovered, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Future sky surveys aim to detect not just the telltale blip of an exoplanet as it passes in front of its star, or the tiny gravitational tug of its orbit on its host sun, but also the composition of these planets, and crucially, their atmospheres. The hunt goes on.
Could planets made of diamond or iron exist? While hundreds of exoplanets have already been discovered, it could just be a matter of time before we find some truly bizarre ones.
FIRST ‘SERIOUS CANDIDATE’ FOR OCEAN PLANET
Astronomers have unveiled the lightest exoplanet ever detected and, in the same distant solar system, the first “serious candidate” for a world with abundant liquid water, both conditions thought important for supporting life.
CATALOGUE OF STRANGE NEW WORLDS
A planet resembling a hot snowball discovered orbiting a distant star is the latest addition to a growing list of extrasolar planets with bizarre properties.
EXOPLANETS FOUND HIDING IN HUBBLE DATA
A new image processing technique can be used to scan more than a decade’s worth of data from the Hubble Space Telescope to find undiscovered exoplanets, researchers claim.
STRANGE EXOPLANET SUFFERS INTERMITTENT INFERNO
Astronomers have observed a planet some 200 light-years from Earth that, for a few hours, becomes 700°C hotter every time its elliptical orbit brings it close to its sun.
Hundreds of extrasolar planets have been detected so far – but a massive new sky survey, starting later this year, could quadruple the tally of known alien worlds.
EXOPLANET IS RAPIDLY ORBITING SPEED DEMON
A massive exoplanet is the first yet found orbiting a super-hot, rapidly rotating star, which turns at around 12 times the speed of our Sun.
FAMILIAR MOONS MAY ORBIT DISTANT STARS
Moons similar to our own could be discovered in distant solar systems by watching the stars for telltale blips of light, says a Korean researcher.
FIRST HUBBLE SHOTS OF AN ALIEN EXOPLANET
After an eight-year quest for images, the Hubble space telescope has snapped the first visible light images of a planet outside our Solar System.
AMATEUR PLANET HUNTERS HELP FIND STRANGE SUPER-JUPITER
Astronomers have revealed one of the strangest planets yet discovered. The extrasolar oddity is 13 times the size of Jupiter and is so close to its star that it completes an orbit in just 3.2 days.
Extra solar planet encyclopedia
Regularly updated and with referenced data, this is the one-stop shop index of exoplanets found to date, current exoplanet searches and theory.
NASA/JPL’s Planet Quest: Exoplanet exploration
Download the latest planet count to your desktop, check out the rich multimedia and get the latest news on NASA’s eight exoplanet search missions.
Twitter away with the experts and enthusiasts on the latest exoplanet results.
European Space Agency: How to find an extrasolar planet
The basics on the radial velocity, transit and astrometry techniques used to search for exoplanets.
Systemic: characterising planetary systems
Californian astrophysicist Greg Laughlin blogs his personal experiences with the scientists conducting exoplanet searches.