NASA has now confirmed over 5,000 planets outside our solar system

NASA has now confirmed that over 5,000 planets exist outside our solar system, which is “just a fraction” of the likely hundreds of billions in our galaxy.

The planetary odometer turned on March 21, as NASA officially added 65 more planets to its exoplanet archive, bringing the total number of confirmed and detectable planets beyond our solar system to more than 5,000 – 35 % of these planets being classified as Neptune-like, 31% identified as “super-Earths”, 30% as gas giants and only 4% terrestrial.

The percentages represent the variety of planets that have been discovered so far, some similar to those in our solar system, and some very different. There are “small rocky worlds like Earth, gas giants several times larger than Jupiter, and hot Jupiters” as well as “super-Earths, which are possible rocky worlds larger than ours, and mini-Neptunes “.

“It’s not just a number,” said Jessie Christiansen, archival scientist and researcher at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech in Pasadena, in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Each of them is a new world, a whole new planet. I’m excited about each one because we don’t know anything about them.”

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory shared a video to celebrate the cosmic milestone, which was largely achieved using powerful telescopes, both in space and on the ground. The first confirmed planetary discovery came in the 1990s when astronomer Alexander Wolszczan and his colleagues published a paper showing evidence of two planets orbiting a pulsar.

“In my opinion, it is inevitable that we will find some form of life somewhere, most likely of a primitive kind,” Wolszczan said, noting how the “close connection between the chemistry of life on Earth and the chemistry found throughout the universe, along with the detection of widespread organic molecules, suggests that the detection of life itself is only a matter of time.”