Planets beyond our own solar system were once thought to be out of the reach of humans. The idea that we could detect worlds beyond our own or even that worlds beyond on our own might be there was questioned. But once the first few worlds were found, the flood gates were opened and the zoo of exoplanets started to reveal itself. While there is much to say about the plethora of planets we now know exist around other stars, this article will give four general fast facts about our current exoplanet understanding.
“Before the mid-90’s, when the first secure case of an exoplanet, 51 Peg was discovered orbiting around a star like our own, planets beyond our own solar system were thought to be out of the reach of humans. The idea that we could detect worlds beyond our own or even that worlds beyond on our own might be there was questioned,” says astrophysicist and dailygalaxy.com editor and science advisor, Jackie Faherty. “But once the first few worlds were found, the floodgates were opened and the zoo of exoplanets started to reveal itself.”
“The Kepler and K2 missions just keep on giving!” Harvard astrophysicist, David Latham told The Daily Galaxy. “Operations ended more than three years ago when the spacecraft ran out of fuel, but we continue to mine the data archives for celestial gems.”
“The volume of space-time within range of our telescopes—what astronomers have traditionally called ‘the universe’—is only a tiny fraction of the aftermath of the big bang,” says astrophysicist Martin Rees. “We’d expect far more galaxies located beyond the horizon, unobservable, each of which –along with any intelligences it hosts– will evolve rather like our own.”
“Perhaps,” Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb told The Daily Galaxy: “We developed our modern science and technology (including transit astronomy and radio communication capabilities) only over a century out of the 4.5 billion years of the Earth’s lifetime. The window of opportunity for anyone to notice us at a random time in Earth’s history is roughly one part in 45 million (4.5 billion divided by 100 years).
“With its larger size and atmosphere,” exoplanetologist Diana Dragomir told The Daily Galaxy, “TOI-1231b promises to give us a glimpse into the rate of atmospheric evaporation caused by its M dwarf star, which we then hope to extrapolate from in order to learn more about atmospheric escape for terrestrial M dwarf planets, too.”