Over the last three decades, astronomers have discovered planets that orbit other stars. Such planets are known as exoplanets. Recently, they tallied 5,000 exoplanets.
NASA confirmed that more than 5,000 planets exist beyond the solar system, representing a 30-year journey of discovery led by NASA space telescopes. These planets include small, rocky worlds like Earth, gas giants many times larger than Jupiter, and “hot Jupiters” in scorchingly close orbits around their stars, super-Earths- possible rocky worlds bigger than ours own, and mini-Neptunes, smaller versions of our system’s Neptune.
Jessie Christiansen, science lead for the archive and a research scientist with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech in Pasadena, said, “It’s not just a number. Each one of them is a new world, a brand-new planet. I get excited about everyone because we don’t know anything about them.”
Our Milky Way holds several such planets. In 1992, astronomers discovered strange new worlds orbiting a pulsar. They discovered three planets around the pulsar. That discovery opened the floodgates 30 years ago unveiled the first planets to be confirmed outside our solar system.
Alexander Wolszczan, the lead author on the paper, said, “If you can find planets around a neutron star, planets have to be everywhere. The planet production process has to be very robust.”
“We are opening an era of discovery that will go beyond simply adding new planets to the list. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in 2018, continues to make new exoplanet discoveries. But soon, powerful next-generation telescopes and their susceptible instruments, starting with the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope, will capture light from the atmospheres of exoplanets, reading which gases are present to identify tell-tale signs of habitable conditions potentially.”
The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, expected to launch in 2027, will make new exoplanet discoveries using various methods. The ESA (European Space Agency) mission ARIEL, launching in 2029, will observe exoplanet atmospheres; a piece of NASA technology aboard, called CASE, will help zero in on exoplanet clouds and hazes.