We are about to start our whirl-wind tour of some of the remaining weird planets, but first, please pay attention to the following non-safety-related information:
Who designed the way stars and planets are named? I’ve more or less figured out how it works, but it really doesn’t give you any information about that star or planet. First, there’s some designation that I think indicates who/what ‘discovered’ the star. I recognize ‘Kepler’, which in its 2nd stage of life is denoted as ‘K2’. But WASP? CaRoT? No Idea. Then comes a number to designate the star. And finally, a letter to designate the planet within that star’s system. The planets are lettered as they are found, so smaller planets probably have later letters than big planets, even if they are closer to that star.
Please keep your hands and legs inside this blog at all times, as I am both driver and tour guide, and we have a lot of space to cover!
The first planet we’ll visit in this 3rd leg of our tour is PSR J1719-14 b (AKA the Sun Hugger), which is only 3,900 light-years from Earth. This is a possible member of the diamond-planet family (I told you about one of those in an earlier blog), and it races around its star in only 2.2 Earth hours, which makes it the fastest planet in the Ultra-Short-Period-Planet category. Also, it’s a pulsar planet, because its star is a pulsar.
Now, out the other window, take a peek at PSR J1719-1438-?, another pulsar planet orbiting a pulsar 4,000 light-years from Earth. Scientists think this planet was once a star, but when its companion became a pulsar, the huge gravity field stripped most of it away, leaving it with only the mass of Jupiter, and exerted pressure on what was left to make it a diamond planet.
Now around here – somewhere – we can see the PSR B1257+12 system discovered in 1992 and 1994. These pulsar planets at one time were the smallest planetary bodies known to exist outside our own solar system.
Here we’ve reached 12,400 light years from Earth to view PSR 1620-26 b (AKA Methuselah). As you might have guessed, it got its nickname by being old. Too old, some say, because it’s 13 billion years in age, almost 3 times as old as Earth! It would have formed less than 1 billion years after the Big Bang, even though it was thought there wasn’t enough material (I assume they mean heavier elements) to create a core for a planet. So, what’s it made of? I don’t know, they didn’t say. At that distance, maybe they can’t tell. So how do they know how old it is? Do you suppose they counted its wrinkles? J
Okay, you can take a little break now while I get us in another section of the universe.