This Visualization Shows the Astonishing Diversity of Alien Worlds

Illustration for article titled This Visualization Shows the Astonishing Diversity of Alien Worlds

Slovak graphic designer Martin Vargic has pieced together a rather meticulous visualization showing over 500 exoplanets discovered by astronomers as of October 2015. Like snowflakes, it shows that no two planets are the same.

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Astronomers are still getting their heads around the fact that exoplanets come in all manner of sizes, orientations, and physical architectures. Our Solar System features considerable variety when its comes to the local planets, but clearly, at an intra-galactic scale, the diversity is truly enormous.

Take Kappa Andromedae b, for example, a gas giant that’s 13 times more massive than Jupiter. Recently discovered Kepler 452-b is quite Earth-like, but it’s about 60% larger than our planet. And then there’s HD 149026b, which features a surface temperature around 3,700 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius).

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Vargic’s new poster, a larger version of which can be found here, does a good job conveying this interplanetary diversity.

Illustration for article titled This Visualization Shows the Astonishing Diversity of Alien Worlds

Vargic described the poster in an email to Gizmodo:

This visualisation shows more than 500 exoplanets discovered before October 2015 (about 1/4 of all exoplanets yet discovered), arranged according to their temperature and density, showing the incredible variety of the extraterrestrial worlds.

Various known classes of exoplanets are shown on the graphic, such as Super-Earths, Hot Jupiters, Hot Neptunes, water worlds, gas dwarfs or superdense diamond planets.

All visualisations are based on the estimated radius and temperature of the planet, however other factors, such as density, age or stellar metallicity were also taken into consideration.

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It’s important to point out that these are all artistic impressions of exoplanets. Very few alien worlds have actually been directly visualized, and they tend to look a little...vague:

Illustration for article titled This Visualization Shows the Astonishing Diversity of Alien Worlds
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The Beta Pictoris System, located a mere 372.7 trillion miles away, or 63.4 light-years (Credit: Gemini/Christian Marois, NRC Canada)

Hopefully, with the next generation of space telescopes, like the James Webb, we’ll start to get some higher-res images of exoplanets. But they’ll never look quite as good as they do in these visualizations.

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Email the author at george@gizmodo.com and follow him at @dvorsky. Top image by Martin Vargic.

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DISCUSSION

thehypatia
thehypatia

I am an astrophysicist and I observe exoplanets. While I’m glad that people take an interest in the science, I find this poster to be incredibly misleading. As the article said, these are artist interpretations. So the only “incredible variety” that is really shown is the artist’s idea of what these planets /might/ look like, which, in all liklihood, is not correct. For example, why do so many of the giant planets have gas bands like Jupiter? Why are some planets shown with clouds? What were the color choices for these planets and why the hell are there purple planets with purple dust rings? There is already so little information known. But now that’s conflated with things that people make up, which may not be obvious for lay-people to separate.