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HomescienceAre eyeball planets a real thing?

Are eyeball planets a real thing?

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Written by Robert Scocchi | published

If you've ever felt like you're being watched from afar, it may be because the planets are eyeballing you. Well, that may not actually be the case, but the prevailing belief among astronomers is that there are plenty of planets floating in deep space that could potentially host life. These exoplanets look like giant intergalactic eyeballs, and have a distinctive appearance that, you guessed it, bears a striking resemblance to an eyeball floating in space.

What is the planet eyeball?

Eyeball planets are exoplanets stuck in a tidal lock phase. Tidal lock occurs when a celestial body rotates at the same rate as its orbit, making it always visible from one side, with one side always facing the opposite direction from one observation point. Our Moon, for example, is tidally locked to the Earth, which is why Pink Floyd famously referred to the dark side of the Moon.

Although the Earth is not tidally locked with the Sun, the eyeball planets share a relationship with their nearest star, a relationship similar to the Moon's relationship with the Earth. In other words, each planet of the eyeball has a day side and a night side with its own unique physical characteristics.

Artist's impression of NASA's Eyeball planet

day vs. Night aspects

Eyeball planets come in different shapes and forms, but they always have a day side and a night side. The day side, as its name suggests, is stuck in a phase of perpetual daylight, always facing its parent star and exposed to stellar radiation. On the day side, you can expect to see barren landscapes that are unlikely to support life.

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Conversely, eyeball planets may be covered in ice on their night side. Since this side of the planet is far from a constant heat source, the surface is likely covered in ice and, in some cases, water similar to oceans on Earth.

hot vs. Icy eyeballs

But here's where it gets interesting. There are two known types of eyeball planets: hot eyeballs and icy eyeballs. The hot eyeballs are located close to the heat of their parent star, their rings of melting ice potentially habitable to plants or more complex organisms.

On the other hand, ice planets with a frozen side are still stuck in a state of perpetual darkness. But since they are far from their parent star, the day side is not necessarily dry land, but covered by vast bodies of water not unlike those on Earth.

With this information in mind, it's not outside the realm of possibility that the water on these planets could be fertile ground (or in this case, water) for extraterrestrial life forms to flourish.

However, it should be noted that we are talking about two possible extremes. This means that apart from hot and icy planets, there could be a sliding scale in temperatures across our vast, expansive universe. When you consider the different cloud formations, distances from primary heat sources, and diverse chemical compositions of these mysterious eyeball exoplanets, each eyeball planet could have a unique set of properties distinct from its current location in deep space.


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