Phaeton: Kepler-438b

There was once a great hope that the exoplanet Kepler-438b was the most Earth-like planet ever.

Unfortunately, it was recently been surmised that life on this planet is most likely impossible due to the degree and regularity of radiation received by its star. While life may be an unlikely scenario on this world, I’m still fascinated by this planet.

There are hot Jupiters out there, and I would classify Kepler-438b as a hot Mars. Our nearest neighbor, Mars, is a dead world. It lacks an active core which means it has no magnetic field to protect it from the solar wind. Mars is riddled with pockets of magnetism. This lack of magnetic field is why Mars is has no significant atmosphere and is also why we’re unlikely to find life there now (even though there is and has been water).


It may be more accurate now to refer to this planet as the ‘most Mars like-planet ever,’ were it not for the fact that it’s larger than Earth which is larger than Mars and the fantastic speed at which the most likely rocky planet orbits its star. What I enjoy the most about this exoplanet is the 35 day long year. The idea of a month being a year fascinates me. On this world, I would be nearly 403 years old and a 39 year old man there would barely be four years old here. The brightness and radiation from its red dwarf star and the passage of time make this planet stunning in its intensity. 


So these are the factors I’ve taken in when considering a more appropriate appellation for Kepler-438b. There was once thought to be a planet between Mars and Jupiter which was destroyed creating the asteroid belt. This fifth planet hypothesis and disruption theory make for some quality batshit crazy, the kind of fringe science Giorgio Tsoukalos is paid very well to spout.

The planet was called Phaeton and inspired the name for an asteroid, 3200 Phaethon. In Greek mythology, Phaethon is the son of the Helios (sometimes Apollo), the god of the sun. Phaethon demands to pilot the solar barge taking the Sun across the sky. Helios/Apollo can’t refuse him, but knows that Phaethon won’t be able to control the chariot. As feared, the chariot of the sun runs amok (this story is often used as the origin of the Sahara desert) and Zeus must strike down Phaethon in order to keep the world intact.

Impetuous and intense, the name I give you for Kepler-438b:


Pronounced ‘fay-ton,’ this planet name fits with our dominant tendency to want to name celestial bodies after Greco-Roman mythology.



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