NASA officially tracks more than 5,000 planets beyond our solar system – The Hill
The story at a glance
- NASA announced that it had added 65 new exoplanets, totaling more than 5,000 documented to date.
- Exoplanets are any planet beyond our solar system; some orbit other stars and some are free-floating.
- NASA says there are likely billions more exoplanets, with the first discovery dating back to 1992.
A new number of exoplanets floating in space has passed the 5,000 mark, with NASA confirming the latest batch of planets outside the immediate solar family.
As of March 21, NASA has added 65 exoplanets, with astronomers now able to confirm that there are over 5,000 exoplanets – and counting. Exoplanets are defined as any planet beyond our solar system. Most orbit other stars, but some free-floating exoplanets, called rogue planets, can orbit the galactic center and are not tied to any star.
The more than 5,000 planets discovered so far include small rocky surfaces like Earth, gas giants like Jupiter and some called “hot Jupiters” that have temperatures “extremely close to the orbits around their stars”, according to NASA .
There are also exoplanets considered “super-Earths” which are possible rocky worlds larger than the Earth on which humans reside. There are even exoplanets orbiting two stars at once, and planets that NASA considers “stubbornly orbiting the collapsed remnants of dead stars.”
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“It’s not just a number. 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,” said Jessie Christiansen, a researcher at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute.
NASA says there are likely hundreds of billions of these exoplanets, with the discovery dating back to 1992. Since then, the agency Exoplanet Archives continuously updates its exoplanet encyclopedia, including detailed data on all known exoplanets.
More resources are being devoted to finding and identifying exoplanets, with NASA set to launch the Roman Nancy Grace Space Telescope in 2027 to make new discoveries of exoplanets using a variety of methods.
Roman will have a field of view 100 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s 32-year-old telescope still actively exploring space, capable of capturing more of the sky with less observing time.
“In my opinion, it’s inevitable that we’ll find some form of life somewhere – most likely of a primitive kind,” said Alexander Wolszczan, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University.
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Posted on March 28, 2022