New technology has made it easier for scientists to discover new planets. On Monday, NASA confirmed the existence of 5,000 exoplanets.
The discovery: On March 21, the NASA planetary odometer revealed 65 more exoplanets — planets outside of our solar system — confirming the existence of over 5,000 of the planets.
- “The 5,000-plus planets found so far include small, rocky worlds like Earth, gas giants many times larger than Jupiter. ... There are ‘super-Earths,’ in which are possible rocky worlds bigger than our own, and ‘mini-Neptunes,’ smaller versions of our system’s Neptune,” NASA reported.
Is there life out there? Out of the 5,000-plus planets found, NASA reports 31% of them to be “super-Earth” like planets.
- “To my thinking, it is inevitable that we’ll find some kind of life somewhere,” said Alexander Wolszczan, a lead author for NASA.
How are planets discovered? NASA uses the “wobble” method, and others to discover new planets.
- When passing near a star, a planet's gravitational pull will cause the star to “wobble.”
- Scientists track the subtle movement of a star to discover any nearby planets, according to NPR.
- Another method used is the transit method. NASA sent a telescope to space that watched over 170,000 stars. When a planet would pass by, it would cause a dip in the light of the stars, letting the scientists know that a planet was close by. This is known as the transit method, as reported by NPR.