10 Extreme Examples of Weather on Other Planets

We’re pretty lucky to live here on Earth. Although there are thousands of known exoplanets, including a sizable number of supposedly Earth-like worlds, none of them are truly likely to have much in common with our own. Life on Earth is, after all, the product of its unique environment and, of course, life itself plays a major role in sculpting that environment. However, some planets are more alien than you could ever imagine, not least when it comes to their climate and weather systems. In this week’s listicle, we’ll be exploring weather on other planets that will make you think again before you complain about more earthly climes.

#1. Sulphuric Acid Rain on Venus


Venus is famous for being home to the most inhospitable environment in the solar system. Its crushing pressures are just the beginning. It’s also sports the hottest surface of any of the planets, and doesn’t get much sunlight owing to its extremely dense layer of clouds. In other words, a visitor stepping forth onto the surface of this biblical hell would be crushed into a carbon briquette in a matter of seconds. Higher up in the Venusian clouds, however, air pressures and temperatures become much more tolerable. Unfortunately, however, any daring visitors would have to evolve having their equipment (and themselves) corroded away by sulphuric acid rain.

#2. Molten Glass Rain on HD 189733b

HD 189733bNASA, ESA, M. Kornmesser

Some 63 light years away lies a deep blue world that’s slightly larger than Jupiter. To our human eyes, it might look rather beautiful, but the weather on this planet is truly horrendous. According to NASA, the wind blows a blustery seven times faster than the speed of sound. However, while any unfortunately visitor would be spiralling around the globe at a shocking speed, the particles of silica, which give the world its blue colour, will happily rip apart almost anything in their path. Effectively, an unending flow of molten glass spins around the upper atmosphere like driving rain in temperatures exceeding 700 °C.

#3. Fierce Dust Storms on Mars


Contrary to the hopes and dreams of many nineteenth and early twentieth century astronomers, Mars is a cold, dead world. Maybe it wasn’t always this way, but the Martian surface is now blasted with radiation, while it struggles to hold on to the tenuous atmosphere it now has. Nonetheless, despite being a virtually airless world compared to Earth, Mars still has seasons and weather which, in some ways, can be slightly similar to our own. However, Martian dust storms can be particularly formidable, sometimes covering almost the entire planet as was observed by the Mariner 9 probe when it studied the Red Planet in 1971.

#4. Supersonic Winds on Neptune


Granted, the supersonic winds on Neptune have nothing on those of the aforementioned HD 189733b, but they’re still pretty impressive. They can reach 1,500 miles per hour (2,400 kph), making them the fastest known in our solar system. Neptune is also home to many storms, which appear to observers as darker regions. Sometimes, these storms, such as the Great Dark Spot, can grow larger in size than Earth, and they tend to last years to decades. No one knows exactly how Neptune manages to build up the huge amount of energy needed for these storms to form, but its bizarre weather certainly isn’t driven by the distant Sun.

#5. Methane Snow on Titan


Titan is the most unique moon in the solar system for a multitude of reasons. It has a dense atmosphere and tolerable air pressures. This mysterious orange world is also home to lakes, rivers, seas and glaciers. Oh, and it also rains and snows. However, while its climate and weather might sound a lot like those of Earth, the chemicals involved in these processes couldn’t be more different. Instead of water, which would be frozen solid in the -179 °C surface temperatures, Titan has a mixture of methane, ethane, propane and other chemicals. In fact, it has hundreds of times more natural gas and hydrocarbon fuel than the entire Earth!

#6. Magmatic Rain on Corot-7b

Corot-7bESO/L. Calcada

Corot-7b is an exoplanet located 489 light years away that orbits a star similar to our own. It’s also a rocky planet that’s only about 58% larger than Earth. That’s where the similarities end. It’s so close to its host star that its year is only 20 hours long, making its surface temperatures up to 2,500 °C. As such, it’s expected to be covered in molten rock… at least in part. However, because the planet lies so close to its host star, it should also be tidally locked to it, meaning that it always shows the same face towards the star. As such, the other side would be in perpetual night, giving it a dramatically different environment.

#7. Ancient Storms on Jupiter


People have been studying our solar system’s behemoth gas giant planet since the Babylonians in the seventh century, and it’s one of the easiest and most impressive targets for skywatchers. It’s also home to some bizarre weather systems, including a storm that has existed for at least 200 years. The Great Red Spot is one of Jupiter’s most famous features, and you can see it for yourself with a high-end telescope. It spins around the planet in about 14 Jovian days, and it’s large enough to envelope Earth up to three times over. Oddly, while wind speeds are around 250 miles per hour (400 kph) at the edges of the storm, the interior appears to be relatively calm.

#8. Brilliant Auroras on Draugr

DraugrRon Miller NASA Blueshift

Also known by its wonderfully expressive name PSR B1257+12 A, Draugr is a planet that shouldn’t exist. It orbits a pulsar, a dead stellar remnant left behind by a pulsar. It takes its popular name from a monstrous undead creature from Norse mythology, which is appropriate given the nature of this mysterious world. It’s one of three small, rocky planets orbiting the pulsar Lich, a tiny and incredibly dense stellar remnant that shines a spinning beam of light like a lighthouse. In addition, the extreme levels of radiation hitting the surface of Draugr creates an eternal and spectacular display of auroras that would easily put any you’re likely to see on Earth to shame.

#9. Psychedelic Clouds on Saturn


Like the other gas giants, Saturn is home to some extremely unusual weather patterns. Discovered by the Voyager probe in 1981, the hexagonal cloud pattern at the planet’s north pole continues to baffle scientists to this day. This formation has a diameter slightly greater than that of Earth, and it keeps changing colour over the years. In 2013, the Cassini-Huygens mission, which also explored Saturn’s moon Titan took a false-colour image of the storm to illustrate its unusual topography and composition. Within the storm itself is an extremely violent center, extending deep into the Saturnian atmosphere and a smaller, shallower vortex towards the edge.

#10. Crazy Seasons on Wolf 1061c

Wolf 1061cNASA/JPL-Caltech

Of all the alien worlds featured in this list, Wolf 1061c is the only one that could potentially be habitable, at least to some form of remotely Earth-like life. However, since it orbits so closely to its red dwarf host, it is likely to be tidally locked, having one side in permanent sunlight and the other in eternal darkness. Because there are at least two other planets in the system, all of which are relatively near one another, the orbit of Wolf 1061c is also highly elliptical. As such, its 18-day-long year will experience a whole new type of seasonal variation characterised not just by its axial tilt, but also by its varying distance from the star.

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