On August 24, 2023, more than three decades after the first confirmation of exoplanets, scientists announced the discovery of six new exoplanets, bringing that number to 5,502. From no confirmations of exoplanets to more than 5,500 within Just a few decades away, this new breakthrough represents another major step in the journey to understanding worlds beyond our solar system.
discovery: With the discovery of six new exoplanets, scientists have flipped the scales and surpassed 5,500 exoplanets discovered (there are now 5,502 known exoplanets, to be exact).
It was only about 31 years ago, in 1992, that the first exoplanets appeared This was confirmed when scientists discovered two twin planets, Poltergeist and Phobetor, orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12. And in March 2022, just last year, scientists celebrated the discovery of 5,000 exoplanets.
Key facts: Scientists have discovered six new exoplanets — HD 36384 b, TOI-198 b, TOI-2095 b, TOI-2095 c, TOI-4860 b, and MWC 758 c — bringing the total number of confirmed exoplanets to 5,502.
details: HD 36384 b It is a super-Jupiter orbiting an M-type supergiant star.
- The planet was discovered using the radial velocity method, which measures the “wobble” of distant stars caused by the gravitational pull of the planets orbiting them.
- It orbits a star so massive that it is about 40 times the size of our sun.
TOI-198 b It is a possible rocky planet orbiting on the inner edge of the habitable zone around its star, the M dwarf.
- The planet was discovered using the transit method, which detects exoplanets as they cross the face of their stars in their orbit, causing the star to temporarily dim.
TOI-2095 b And TOI-2095 c Both are big, hot giant Earths orbiting in the same system around a common star, the dwarf star M.
- Planets were discovered using the transit method.
- They are close enough to their star that they probably resemble Venus more than Earth.
TOI-4860b It is a gas giant the size of Jupiter, or “hot Jupiter”, orbiting an M-type dwarf star.
- This planet was discovered using the transit method.
- It rotates every 1.52 days, which means it is very close to its star. While it is very rare for giant planets like this to orbit near Sun-like stars, it is even rarer for them to orbit M-type dwarf stars as is the case here.
MWC 758 C is a giant protoplanet orbiting a very young star. This star still has its protoplanetary disk, a rotating disk of gas and dust that can surround a young star.
- This planet was discovered using direct imaging.
- It has been found carving spiral arms into its star’s protoplanetary disk.
- It is one of the first exoplanets discovered in a system in which the star contains a protoplanetary disk.
The field of exoplanet science has witnessed tremendous development since the first confirmation of an exoplanet in 1992, and as technology advances, the future of this field looks brighter than ever.
There are a number of space-based and ground-based instruments and observatories that scientists have used to discover and study exoplanets.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched in 2018 and has identified thousands of exoplanet candidates and confirmed more than 320 planets.
Leading NASA space telescopes Spitzer, Hubble, and most recently the James Webb Space Telescope have also been used to discover and study exoplanets.
NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is scheduled to launch in May 2027. Roman will carry a technology demonstration called the Roman Coronagraph Instrument. This coronagraph will work by using a series of complex masks and mirrors to distort the light from distant stars. By distorting this starlight, the instrument will reveal hidden exoplanets and take direct images of them.
With the success of the Romanian Coronagraph instrument, NASA could push the envelope even further with its Habitable Worlds Observatory mission concept, which would search for “signatures of life on planets outside our solar system.” according to 2020 Decadal Survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Discoverers: These six exoplanets were discovered by different teams as part of five separate studies: