NASA has confirmed the existence of 5,000 planets beyond our solar system. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has updated NASA’s exoplanet archive with 65 new members with varying characteristics.
Small and rocky worlds, super-Earths, mini Neptunes or gas giants that exceed Jupiter in size are part of the discovery. Also worlds like Tatooine, which orbit two stars at the same time, or those which orbit white dwarfs.
Passing the 5,000 exoplanet mark is an important milestone for JPL, but it’s not just a number. “Each is a new world, a new planet. I’m excited about each one because we don’t know anything about them,” said Jessie Christiansen, a researcher at the Exoplanet Science Institute.
The also director of the Archives indicates that 4,900 are located a few thousand light-years away. Christiansen warns that we could find between 100 and 200 billion planets if we consider that our solar system is 30,000 light years from the center of the galaxy.
Gas giants, Super Earths and planets like Tatooine and more
Of the 5,000 exoplanets that make up the NASA archives, 35% are similar in size to Neptune and Uranus. Some are Frost Giants, although there are hotter variants that are rarer. Gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn account for 30% of the total. These planets may be hotter than some stars, such as KELT-9b, which has a surface temperature of 3,780 degrees Celsius.
Super-Earths, which are larger than our planet and smaller than Neptune, make up one-third of NASA’s current base. Finally there are the telluric planets; rocky worlds that resemble Earth in dimensions or are smaller.
In this category, which represents barely 4% of all exoplanets, is the TRAPPIST-1 system. Using a telescope of the same name, Belgian astronomers have found seven planets orbiting a red dwarf slightly larger than Jupiter.
5,000 exoplanets are just the start for NASA
The discovery of 5,000 exoplanets is an impressive feat considering it has happened in the last 30 years. The first two were found January 9, 1992 by Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail.
With the help of arecibo observatory, astronomers have detected two planets orbiting the PSR-1257+12 pulsar, a star located in the constellation Virgo, 980 light-years from Earth. A third joined the list in 1994, beginning a career that would change astronomy forever.
Thousands of exoplanets have been discovered thanks to kepler space telescope, which since its launch and until 2018 has detected 5,100 planetary candidates to analyze. NASA now uses the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
How do we detect an exoplanet?
The TESS uses the transit photometry to detect exoplanets. look at a star the amount of light is measured which comes to us If it is smaller than normal, we can know if one or more planets pass in front of it. For planets like Tatooine, which orbit binary star systems, detection takes a long time.
The study of exoplanets is important to understand the evolution of the Earth and our solar system. The James Webb Space Telescope and the Roman Nancy Grace Telescope will play important roles in the discovery of future worlds. The first is already in space, while the second is expected to enter service in 2027.
NASA has confirmed that the European Space Agency’s ARIEL mission will observe the atmospheres of exoplanets once launched in 2029.
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