Luis Calcada, a science visualization artist which works with the European Southern Observatory, chose another hot Jupiter: Vega b.
“This star, which is only 25 light-years away from us, is at the heart of Carl Sagan’s novel ‘Contact’,” Calçada said. He said the book sparked an interest that led him “to pursue university studies in astronomy. After that, I built a career as a science illustrator. So this book, Carl Sagan and Vega were present at a defining moment in my life. So seeing a planet discovered around it was very exciting.
Small but fascinating
During his years on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Wil Wheaton became familiar with fictional worlds and new forms of life. He chose YZ Ceti b, which is slightly smaller than Earth and orbits a red dwarf 12 light-years away, making it extremely close for further study.
“It doesn’t make sense that, in a universe as vast as ours, we are the only intelligent (sentient) species,” Wheaton said in an email. “So when I look up at the night sky, I don’t just imagine someone else looking back. I know they are.
He added that the proof was unlikely to come in our lifetimes, so “our most pressing challenge as a species right now is to care for the only planet we can live on so that generations to come come, in a future so distant that we cannot imagine what it will be like, our descendants will be able to establish a first contact.
Boost your imagination
At just 500 million years old, Kepler-51 is among the youngest star systems on this list. But despite still being a baby in astronomical terms, the system is already home to several planets with enigmatic properties, said Peter Gao, a staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
Dr Gao said the system’s three planets were dubbed ‘super puffs’, with extremely low density reminiscent of styrofoam or cotton candy and ‘challenging our understanding of planet formation and evolution’ .
He added that “I like them because I like a good mystery, and their existence showed that the universe is always more imaginative than us.”