alien worlds

JWST will unlock the mysteries of these 7 peculiar exoplanets

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There’s no shortage of strange phenomena in deep space.

Soon, the James Webb Space Telescope will give us an unprecedented look at the universe’s most elusive mysteries.

Researchers from around the globe are planning to observe specific cosmic objects as part of a General Observer Program for the Webb telescope.


Many research proposals focus on peculiar exoplanets, from bizarre hot Neptunes to planets so puffy that physically they shouldn’t be able to exist.

Here are 7 of the strangest alien worlds researchers will observe with the Webb Telescope:

7. Secrets in the clouds

The exoplanet HD 189733 b might look a bit like Earth from a distance, but it's actually a blazing ball of gas where the wind whips at seven times the speed of sound.

Researchers are interested in the mineral composition of HD 189733 b’s clouds, which will help unlock the mysteries of how gas giants form.

6. Shape shifter

WISE 0855 is a mystery. It could be a planet ejected from its star system, or it could be a small brown dwarf — an odd object in between the mass of a planet and a star.

Illustration by Joy Pollard, Gemini Observatory/AURA

Illustration by Joy Pollard, Gemini Observatory/AURA

One team will use the Webb Telescope to peek into WISE 0855’s surprisingly clear atmosphere, and look for potential ice clouds lurking there.

5. Cotton candy planets

Also known as super-puffs, these planets are a few times larger than Earth but have extremely low densities.

Their fluffy existence challenges current models of planet formation, which is why researchers are planning to study two super puffs in the Kepler-51 system with JWST.

4. Heat Shock

The extremely lopsided orbit of exoplanet HD 80606 b causes its host star to singe the Jupiter-like world whenever it comes in close contact.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/G. Laughlin et al.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/G. Laughlin et al.

It has a trajectory like no planet in our Solar System.

But it gives researchers an opportunity to observe extreme temperature changes on the planet while it travels in its eccentric orbit.

3. To be or not to be

The Earth-like, rocky planet Gliese 486 b orbits its red dwarf star far too close to be habitable, but it could help us learn how to better search for life in the cosmos.



Researchers want to determine the presence or absence of an atmosphere on this planet to better understand what causes rocky planets to be able to host life — or not.

2. Not-so-icy giants

Sub-Neptunes are a class of planets that have similar radii to Neptune, but orbit closer to their stars than Mercury does to the Sun.


They’re also the most common type of planet found in galaxy, and researchers don’t really know what they’re made of.

One group of scientists will use JWST to take a closer look at the hot Sub-Neptune TOI-421b.

1. Solar survivor

Normally, the explosive process that forms white dwarfs incinerates or absorbs nearby planets. But a white dwarf called WD1856+534 has a world seven times its size orbiting around it.

Researchers are unsure how this planet, WD 1856 b, is able to exist.

It should have died when its home star left the life of a normal star.

But a closer look with the Webb Telescope could help uncover this secret soon enough.

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