Exoplanets and rogue planets for children to know about
Exoplanets are celestial objects and planets that do not orbit the sun in our solar system, but it does orbit around another star.
Exoplanets may look similar to the planets in our solar system, and can also look different. Sizes and mass of the exoplanets will differ, some are larger than Jupiter, which is our solar system’s largest planet.
What is the largest and smallest exoplanet?
The smallest exoplanet found is Kepler-37b. The size of Kepler-37b is similar to the Moon, which is smaller than Mercury.
The largest exoplanet found is HAT-P-67 b. HAT-P-67 b is a gas giant, similar to Jupiter. However, HAT-P-67 is two times larger than Jupiter in size, which is 22 times larger than Earth.
What interesting exoplanets are found in space?
There are different types of exoplanets that are unique found within space. Different exoplanets have different conditions, some planets can be rocky and some planets can be gaseous.
Kepler-186f is a rocky planet found slightly on the outer edge of the habitable zone. It is located within the Kepler-186 system, estimated to be 500 light years away from Earth, in the constellation Cygnus.
Kepler-186 hosts about 4 planets (Kepler-186b, Kepler-186c, Kepler-186 d and Kepler-186e) in its system that orbits around a star that is classified as an M dwarf. The star is half the size and mass of the Sun.
Kepler-186f orbits once around the star every 130 days, the exoplanet receives about ⅓ of the energy from the star that Earth receives from the Sun. The brightness of the star seen on the surface of Kepler-186f is similar to how the Sun appears on Earth an hour before sunset.
HD 209458 b has a nickname, which is known as “Osiris”. It is the first planet seen in transit and to have light directly detected.
Oxygen and carbon are found to surround the planet in an extended ellipsoidal envelope, similar to a rugby ball.
Its parent star, HD 209458, is similar to the Sun. It is located 150 light years away from Earth, in the constellation of Pegasus.
Kepler-16b is the first planet discovered to orbit around two stars, located 200 light years away from Earth. Kepler-16b is a cold and gaseous (half rock and half gas) exoplanet that does not harbour life, with its size similar to Saturn.
The parent star of Kepler-16b is smaller than the Sun, the first star is 69% the mass of the Sun and the second star is 20% the mass of the sun.
Kepler-16b orbits around the two stars every 229 days, similar to the 225 days orbit by Venus. However, Kepler-16b is not located within the habitable zone. As the parent stars are cooler than the Sun, liquid water exists on the surface of Kepler-16b.
CoRoT 7B is the first super Earth discovered in 2009, a rocky exoplanet similar to Earth. The exoplanet takes about 20.4 hours to orbit around the Sun-like star. CoRoT 7B is located 480 light years away in the constellation Monoceros.
The exoplanet is about 60 times closer to the parent star than Earth, where the star will appear 360 times bigger than the Sun that appears in Earth’s sky.
Due to its close distance to its parent star, CoRoT 7B experiences extreme surface heating that reaches an estimate of 1,982 degree celsius for daylight. Astronomers suggest that CoRoT 7B is slowly disappearing, as the rocky surface is likely to be molten or rocks being vaporised from the extreme heat.
Kepler-22b is a planet found in the habitable zone, likely to be a water-world planet that is not seen in the solar system.
Kepler-22b is 2.4 times the size of Earth, known as the smallest found planet that orbits in the centre of the habitable zone. The parent star of Kepler-22b is similar to the Sun.
Kepler-10b is a rocky planet, about 1.4 times the size of Earth. The exoplanet is not located within the habitable zone. The surface of Kepler-10b is extremely rocky, it was found that the surface can be stood on.
With calculations, the mass of Kepler-10b is 4.6 times that of the Earth, an average density of 8.8 gram per cubic centimetre, similar to an iron dumbbell.
55 Cancri e is an exoplanet that orbits around its parent star every 18 hours. The distance between the parent star and 55 Cancri e is 22 times closer than Mercury is to the Sun. 55 Cancri e is tidally locked, with one surface being scorched from the heat of its parent star.
Closest exoplanet to the solar system
The closest known exoplanet is Proxima Centauri B, located 4 light years away from Earth. Proxima Centauri B was discovered in 2016, it was found that the exoplanet has a mass that is 1.27 times that of Earth.
Proxima Centauri B is located within the habitable zone of the star, Proxima Centauri. The exoplanet is exposed to ultraviolet radiation that is extreme since it is close to Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri B orbits around its star in 11.2 days.
What is a habitable zone?
Habitable zone refers to the distance from a star that allows liquid water to possibly exist on the planet’s surface. The conditions for planets within the habitable zone are neither too hot nor too cold for life to exist. Habitable zone is known as the “Goldilocks’ zones”.
Why is discovering exoplanets in habitable zones important?
Discovering exoplanets in habitable zones is important as the planets might provide suitable conditions for humans to one day inhabit them.
It is important to note that not all planets are in the habitable zone. Therefore, finding a planet that is located within the habitable zone and provides suitable conditions for life to grow, e.g. right temperature and water, is challenging.
Fun Facts about exoplanets
There are various fun facts about exoplanets that interesting to know of, for example:
There are more than 700 star systems found in space that have more than 1 exoplanet within.
There are over 4,000 exoplanets being discovered in the Milky Way currently. About 1 billion exoplanets are estimated to exist in space.
The exoplanet, 51 Pegasi B, was the first exoplanet discovered to orbit around a star that is similar to the Sun.
Kepler 186f is the first exoplanet similar to Earth identified in 2014.
It is believed that there are over 1 billion exoplanets within the Milky Way.
Moons that orbit around exoplanets are named as exomoons.
It is common that many planets are similar in size to Earth. 22% of stars that are similar to the Sun in size have Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones.
Rogue planets refer to planets that do not orbit around a star, removed from their stellar system and float aimlessly through space.
Planets are able to become rogue planets, especially if the planet suffers from collision or if their parent star dies. Thus, forcing the planets into a never ending journey through space.
I hope the information available helps you to understand more about the exoplanets and rogue planets found in space. As this article may serve as an aid to help you introduce different types of exoplanets and how rogue planets came to be for your child to learn about.
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