The latest batch of 65 exoplanets – planets outside our immediate solar system, was added to the NASA Exoplanet Archive on March 21.
Every now and then, a revelation in space exploration occurs that opens up new possibilities beyond what we have previously seen. We used to live in a universe where there were only a few recorded planets, all of which orbited our Sun. However, a recent significant amount of discoveries has ushered in a new era in science, with more than 5,000 planets proved to thrive outside our solar system.
The latest batch of 65 exoplanets – planets outside our immediate solar system – was added to the NASA Exoplanet Archive on March 21, marking the start of the planetary odometer. The repository contains exoplanet discoveries that have been confirmed using various observation techniques or analytical approaches and have been published in peer-reviewed scientific reports.
Today marks the discovery of over 5,000 known planets beyond our solar system according to the @NASAExoplanets Archive!— NASA (@NASA) March 21, 2022
Listen to decades of discovery, and learn about the significance of each sound: https://t.co/RnZwqKfYYW pic.twitter.com/ZnXWOlvAPQ
Small, rocky worlds like Earth, gas giants many times larger than Jupiter, and "hot Jupiters" in near orbits across their stars are among the worlds discovered thus far. There are "super-Earths," which are potentially larger rocky planets than our own, and "mini-Neptunes," which are smaller replicas of Neptune. Planets orbiting two stars at the same time, as well as planets doggedly orbiting the collapsing remnants of dead stars were some of the intereseting observations.
"Each one of them is a new world, a brand-new planet. I get excited about every one because we don’t know anything about them" said Jessie Christiansen, the archive's science head and a research scientist with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech in Pasadena.
Alexander Wolszczan, a professor at Penn State who still explores for exoplanets, believes we're entering a new era of exploration that will go beyond merely introducing new worlds. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which was launched in 2018, is still finding new exoplanets. But, starting with the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope, impactful next-generation telescopes and their super precise instruments could soon capture light from exoplanet environments, reading which gases are there and possibly identifying evidence of living environments.
The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which is set to deploy in 2027, will use a number of approaches to find new exoplanets. Exoplanet atmospheres will be observed by the ESA (European Space Agency) mission ARIEL, which will release in 2029; a piece of NASA gear aircraft called CASE will help focus in on exoplanet clouds and hazes.