The journey to understand the vast expanse beyond our solar system hits another significant milestone.
On Aug. 24, 2023, scientists unveiled six new exoplanets, pushing the total number to an impressive 5,502. What began with twin planets Poltergeist and Phobetor orbiting pulsar PSR B1257+12 in 1992, now spans over three decades of remarkable discoveries. Just a year ago, the count had celebrated the 5,000th exoplanet.
Delving Into The Latest Discoveries
- HD 36384 b: A colossal super Jupiter, this planet uses the radial velocity method for discovery. Its orbit is around an M giant star, almost 40 times larger than our Sun.
- TOI-198 b: Found using the transit method, it’s a potentially rocky planet on the brink of the habitable zone of its M dwarf star.
- TOI-2095 b & TOI-2095 c: These twin super-Earths share an orbit around an M dwarf star. Their proximity suggests Venus-like conditions.
- TOI-4860 b: A “hot Jupiter”, it circles an M dwarf star, completing its orbit in 1.52 days, a rarity in the exoplanet world.
- MWC 758 c: Found orbiting a young star with its protoplanetary disk intact, this protoplanet was discovered via direct imaging. Its spiral arms carving through the disk is a sight not often seen.
Rapid Technological Advancements Propel Discoveries
Since 1992, the exoplanet field has been blossoming. Technological advancements have paved the way for a brighter future in this domain. Instruments, both ground-based and space-based, have played pivotal roles in these discoveries.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in 2018, has identified numerous exoplanet candidates, confirming over 320. The renowned space telescopes—Spitzer, Hubble, and the James Webb Space Telescope—have also significantly contributed.
Slated for a May 2027 launch, NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will feature the Roman Coronagraph Instrument, an innovation set to distort starlight and unveil hidden exoplanets. This technology’s success may give rise to the Habitable Worlds Observatory, aiming to detect life signatures on extraterrestrial planets, as highlighted in the 2020 Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics.
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