Astronomical discovery! There are more than 5,000 worlds beyond the solar system, NASA confirmed
Good news to space enthusiasts and science lovers!
Recently, NASA confirmed that there are more than 5,000 exoplanets beyond our solar system. Scientists are celebrating this astronomical discovery. Studying these newly discovered exoplanets will help us answer the most interesting questions about our place in the universe: “Are we alone?” “Where do we come from?”
“We can look back in time, basically, and look at younger and younger stars and see how planets form,” said Jessie Christiansen, lead scientist at NASA’s exoplanet archive, Caltech, Pasadena. We can look at baby stars being born in stellar nurseries and actually start to see evidence of planets forming around them. And that can help us work out things like how common planets like the Earth are.
For the past 3 decades, techniques and instruments to locate exoplanets improved and the discovery of exoplanets has accelerated with the help of giant telescopes and dedicated scientists.
Thanks to the team of exoplanet sleuths and planet-hunting telescopes and satellites like the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Kepler Space Telescope, and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Kepler Space Telescope helped scientists discover about two-thirds of the 5,000 confirmed planets. Interestingly, there are still hundreds of billions of exoplanets in the galaxy yet to be discovered.
“When we were trying to hit the 5,000 exoplanets, I made sure we overshot a little bit and landed on 5,005 just because we knew that some planets would come [off the list] in the future,” Christiansen said. We can really start to ask questions about the demographics of the population like how common different kinds of planets are and what kind of stars make different kinds of planets.”
There are many super-Earth and sub-Neptune planets in the new batch of 65 exoplanets. There are also some hot Jupiter-sized planets. The discovery also consists of two Earth-size planets, but they’re about 620 degrees Fahrenheit (327 degrees Celsius).
“Of the 5,000 exoplanets known, 4,900 are located within a few thousand light-years of us, Christiansen said. “And think about the fact that we’re 30,000 light-years from the center of the galaxy; if you extrapolate from the little bubble around us, that means there are many more planets in our galaxy we haven’t found yet, as many as 100 to 200 billion. It’s mind-blowing.”
In the early 2000s, there were only about 100 known exoplanets. This was the time when Christiansen was a graduate student.
“That’s partly why I wanted to go into the field — because it was brand new and so exciting that people were finding planets around other stars,” Christiansen said in a question and answer session shared by Caltech. “Now, exoplanets are almost ordinary. My colleague David Ciardi (chief scientist for the NASA Exoplanet Archive) pointed out the other day that half of the people alive have never lived in a world where we didn’t know about exoplanets.”
New telescopes and technologies will increase the potential for exoplanet discovery. The most powerful James Webb Space Telescope can capture the details of the atmospheres of the exoplanets.
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