Are you afraid of the dark? Do the hairs on the back of your neck lift when the lights are out, waiting for the touch of spectral fingers? Then don’t visit the world of TrEs-2b. Welcome to the planet of eternal night, found by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The darkest planet ever discovered orbiting a star, this alien world is less reflective than coal. Inside its atmosphere, you’d be flying blind in the dark. But fear not traveler- it’s not pitch black. Some scientists think an eerie deep red glow would emanate from its burning atmosphere. The air of this planet is the same temperature as the hottest lava, like an infernal nightlight to light your way.
The Twilight Zone
Strange things transpire in the twilight zone, and stranger still is the place where the sun never rises nor sets, but remains trapped at dusk. The planet Janssen (scientific name 55 Cancri e) is tidally locked, a two-faced super-Earth with the dayside of the planet molten from the heat of its star Copernicus and its nightside plunged permanently into darkness. You might think you’d survive in the twilight or “terminator” zone, where the day and night sides meet. But Janssen’s year is only 18 hours long. That means the backside of the planet is just cool enough to harden the dayside’s boiling hellish world of possible lava flows. Don’t get on this planet’s bad side–either of them–or you’ll be toast.
Rains of Terror
The nightmare world of HD 189733 b is the killer you never see coming. To the human eye, this far-off planet looks bright blue. But any space traveler confusing it with the friendly skies of Earth would be badly mistaken. The weather on this world is deadly. Its winds blow up to 5,400 mph (2 km/s) at seven times the speed of sound, whipping all would-be travelers in a sickening spiral around the planet. And getting caught in the rain on this planet is more than an inconvenience; it’s death by a thousand cuts. This scorching alien world possibly rains glass—sideways—in its howling winds. The cobalt blue color comes from a hazy, blow-torched atmosphere containing high clouds laced with silicate particles.
If you can’t stand the stillness of the grave or the rotting flesh of zombies, then the pulsar planets are off-limits. Nothing can live in this most inhospitable corner of the galaxy. An astronaut who flew to the planet Poltergeist (a.k.a. PSR B1257+12 c) would find herself in the midst of three dead planet cores shambling through the twisted magnetic fields of their corpse star. Like the decaying ruins of a once-great house, the star Lich–named for a fictional undead creature– is the collapsed core of an exploded star. But that’s not the creepiest part of this planetary graveyard. Lich has twin spinning beams of radiation spinning faster than you can blink, which can instantly incinerate any spaceship. The radiation constantly rains down on Poltergeist and its neighboring worlds, creating silent nights, possibly lit with sickly irradiated auroras. I your supernatural reflexes can get you to a planetary surface, good luck. Planet Draugr (PSR B1257+12 b) is a Norse undead creature and the world Phobetor (PSR B1257+12 d) is named after the Greek deity of nightmares.
The shrills screams of damned souls being burned alive might be heard traveling faintly through space. The world Kepler-70b (a.k.a. KOI-55) could well be another circle of hell as its average temperature is hotter than the surface of the sun. A year on this rocky planet only takes five hours, but a trip to its surface would be much shorter. A spaceship wouldn’t even have time to melt in its extreme heat, but would vaporize. Even more unnerving is the fact that Kepler-70b used to be a Jupiter-size giant until it spent some time inside its now-dead star…a trip that destroys most worlds, but left this one a Freddy Krueger-like burnt survivor smaller than Earth. At about 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit (6,800 Celsius), it holds the dubious honor of the hottest planet discovered so far. In fact, the planet itself is evaporating, soon to be another victim.
Not a fan of medical experiments? Watch out for the hulking monster of a star stealing pieces of its nearby planet to assemble itself into the ultimate Frankenstein creation. The extreme force of this sun’s gravity is stretching its hot gas giant into the shape of an egg, all the while slowly cannibalizing pieces of the planet and sucking them into its scorching surface. Relatively soon (10 million years—a fleeting moment in space time) this planet will be completely devoured by its hungry star. If you enjoy watching your world fall to pieces, then feel free to touch down on the doomed planet.
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