In the not too distant past, there were only a few known planets. However, a flurry of recent discoveries has marked a scientific high point: it is now confirmed that there are more than 5,000 planets beyond our solar system.
A few decades ago, the only planets we knew for sure existed were those that revolved around our sun, making up our solar system. Astronomers thought there were most likely planets orbiting other stars as well, but these were almost impossible to detect because they were relatively small and very far away. But since the discovery of the first planet outside our solar system (or exoplanet) in 1992, the number of known exoplanets has exploded into a much more active field of research.
5,000 confirmed exoplanets
now him the official number of confirmed exoplanets has passed the 5,000 markwhen 65 new planets were added to the NASA Exoplanet Archiveswhich compiles discoveries about exoplanets that have been validated in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
These 5,000 exoplanets exist in several sizes. Those that are the size of Earth and are rocky are said to be terrestrial and make up about 4% of known exoplanets, while super-Earths are slightly larger than our planet but smaller than Neptune and make up 31% of exoplanets. Neptune-like planets, which are often ice giants, make up 35% of exoplanets, and finally there are gas giants, similar to Saturn or Jupiter, which make up the remaining 30% of exoplanets.
“It’s not just a number,” he said. Jessie Christiansenresearcher at the Exoplanet Science Institute of POT at Caltech in Pasadena, during the landmark announcement. “Each of them is a new world, a new planet. I get emotional with everyone because we don’t know anything about them.”
Illustrative image of exoplanets. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
The Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009 and retired in 2018, has discovered more than 2,600 planets. As space telescopes become more advanced, scientists will find more planets and learn more about those already discovered.
The universe is officially full of strange new worlds
Since the discovery of the first exoplanet, a term for a planet outside our solar system, in 1995, scientists have discovered a variety of planets.
Similarly, “super-Earths” similar to our planet but larger have been discovered, and recently confirmed the discovery of planet Kepler-16b, which is similar to TatooineLuke Skywalker’s home in the Star Wars movies, as it orbits two stars.
Kepler-16b is about 245 light-years from Earth and, like Tatooine, would have two sunsets if you could stand on its surface.
Among other interesting discoveries, scientists using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile discovered an exoplanet called bCentaur (AB)b Where b Centaur b10 times more massive than Jupiter orbiting a pair of stars in another solar system 325 light years from Earth.
In 2020, NASA also found an Earth-like planet among the exoplanets discovered through Kepler space telescope observations.
New space missions include the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which NASA hopes to launch no later than 2027, and which were designed to find new exoplanets. The European Space Agency Ariel Space Missionwhose launch scheduled for 2029, will study the atmospheres of exoplanets.
The Wide Field Infrared Telescope (WFIRST) is now called the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, named after NASA’s first female chief of astronomy. Credit: NASA
Meanwhile, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in 2018, continues NASA’s search for new planets and the James Webb Space Telescope, launched in December 2021, will help. determine if certain planets are habitable.
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With increasing discoveries and continued exploration, it is likely that scientists will eventually discover signs of life on other planets. And like we discover new planetswe learn more about the different types of systems that exist
“In my view, it’s inevitable that we’ll find some kind of life somewhere, most likely of a primitive type,” he said. Alexander Wolszczanprofessor at the University of Pennsylvania who discovered the first planets outside our solar system 30 years ago.
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