Images of Alien Planets -- Released


Among the more than 400 planets found beyond our solar system, there are volcanic Super Earths, gas giants that dwarf Jupiter, and worlds with multiple sunsets.

Here are some of the most incredible, starting with the very first alien world - 51 Pegasi b was the first planet discovered in orbit around a normal star other than our Sun. It was found in 1995.

The reigning champ of most Earth-sized planets yet is a world called Gliese 581 e, which circles a star that has four planets total. It is called the smallest because of its mass, which is just 1.9 times the mass of Earth, making it the lightest known alien planet to date. The other planets range in mass from 5 to 16 times the mass of Earth.

The largest alien planet ever discovered is also one of the strangest and theoretically should not even exist, scientists say. Dubbed TrES-4, the planet is about 1.7 times the size of Jupiter and belongs to a small subclass of so-called puffy planets that have extremely low densities. The planet is located about 1,400 light years away from Earth and zips around its parent star in only three and a half days.


This planet, CoRoT-7b, was the first confirmed rocky world outside our solar system, but it doesn't look like a particularly pleasant place to live. It is tidally locked to its parent star, and sees hellish 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,200 degrees Celsius). It may also rain rocks and be the core of a vaporized gas giant.



A Jupiter-like planet 149 light-years from Earth. This planet has three suns, with the main star similar in mass to our own sun. The triple-star system is known as HD 188753. The planet there is likely pretty hot. It orbits very close to the main star, completing one orbit every 3.5 days.

The youngest exoplanet yet discovered is less than 1 million years old and orbits Coku Tau 4, a star 420 light-years away. Astronomers inferred the planet's presence from an enormous hole in the dusty disk that girdles the star. The hole is 10 times the size of Earth's orbit around the Sun and probably caused by the planet clearing a space in the dust as it orbits the star.

The oldest known planet is a primeval world 12.7 billion years old that formed more than 8 billion years before Earth and only 2 billion years after the Big Bang. The discovery suggested planets are very common in the universe and raised the prospect that life began far sooner than most scientists ever imagined.

Astronomers are finding many worlds now in a category of worlds called Super-Earths, which are between 2 and 10 times the mass of our own Earth. A world called HD156668b is the second smallest after Gliese 581 e. Some scientists think such worlds could be more susceptible to forming the conditions for life because their cores are hot and are conducive to volcanism and plate tectonics.


[/FONT]A planet called WASP-12b is the hottest planet ever discovered (about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2,200 degrees Celsius), and orbits its star closer than any other known world. It orbits its star once every Earth day at a distance of about 2 million miles (3.4 million km). WASP-12b is a gaseous planet, about 1.5 times the mass of Jupiter, and almost twice the size. It is 870 light-years from Earth.

With a surface temperature of -364 degrees Fahrenheit (-220 degrees Celsius), the alien planet known as OGLE-2005-BLG-390L b is likely the coldest alien world. It is about 5.5 times as massive as Earth and thought to be rocky. It orbits a red star about 28,000 light-years away, making it the most distant exoplanet currently known.

The extrasolar planet GJ 1214b is a rocky planet rich in water that sits about 40 light-years away. It orbits a red dwarf star. It is the only known Super-Earth alien planet — worlds that have masses between Earth and Neptune — with a confirmed atmosphere. The planet is about three times the size of Earth and about 6.5 times as massive. Researchers think it is likely a water world with a solid center.

A planet lighter than a ball of cork is one of the puffiest alien planets known to date. Called HAT-P-1, the planet is about half as massive as Jupiter but about 1.76 times wider-or 24 percent larger than predicted by theory. It could float in water, if there was a tub large enough to hold it.