Not so long ago, we lived in a universe with only nine known planets (before Pluto was demoted), all within our own solar system. In the last couple of decades, however, thousands more have been discovered orbiting stars other than the Sun, and more are being confirmed every month. Some of these discoveries have revealed worlds so alien that even the world’s greatest science fiction writers would have a hard time trying to match. In this week’s listicle, I’m going to introduce you to 10 of the most beautiful otherworldly skies in the vastness of our Universe.
#1. Proxima b
An artist’s impression of the sky as seen from Proxima b during the day time. In the background are the two Sun-like stars Alpha Centauri A and B.
25 trillion miles (40 trillion km) away lies our closest stellar neighbour, the red dwarf star of Proxima Centauri. This relatively tiny star, being only about 12% as massive as our own, hosts a rocky planet slightly larger than Earth. Although likely not habitable, contrary to popular thinking, the view from planet Proxima b would be quite otherworldly to say the least, largely because Proxima Centauri is likely part of the Alpha Centauri binary star system. Not only would you see the deep red ball of the alien sun in the daytime; you’d also see two other distant suns in the sky.
Based on images and data gathered by NASA’s New Horizons probe, this artist’s impression shows the barren surface and alien skies of Pluto.
The lonely dwarf planet of Pluto, with its selection of at least five moons, lies between 30 and 50 times further away from the Sun than Earth. As such, it’s a dark world, but not as gloomy as you might think. In fact, although the Sun looks much like a star from the surface in terms of size, it’s still hundreds of times brighter than the full Moon as seen from Earth. Even more amazingly, the hazy particles in Pluto’s tenuous atmosphere scatter the sunlight in such a way that there’s even a deep blue tinge to the sky.