There was a time when we only knew for sure the planets that were part of our solar system, then over the past three decades, advances in technology have allowed us to build ever more refined telescopes and use incredibly precise identification methods, too. at distances of the order of several light years. We rely on spectrophotometry, the transit method and other analytical techniques to grasp the composition, presence and size of these cosmic objects, and among the many identified, rocky exoplanets, i.e. those most similar to our Earth, are not so rare.
Just recently, on March 21st to be exact, the exoplanet counter has reached and exceeded 5,000. The goal was achieved thanks to the discovery of a new batch of 65 celestial bodies, and NASA has decided to celebrate it by dedicating a video to the event.
The objective is very important and it is not just a mere numerical question, in fact we know that this count represents only a small part of reality and our galaxy alone could contain hundreds of billions of exoplanets. Some could be very similar to the Earth, others are gaseous like our giant Jupiter, as well as the types of parent stars change. One of the greatest achievements came in 1992, when they were identified the first three planets around a neutron stara sign that similar celestial bodies could be present virtually anywhere in the universe.
The research continued in the years to come and a great impulse came in 2018 with the sending of TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) into orbit, thanks to which over 2,200 celestial bodies of this were discovered in the first two years of activity alone. guy. Even the very recent James Webb space telescope will be able to enrich the list and not only that, even more precise spectral detections are expected to provide a picture of the atmospheric composition of exoplanets, thus identifying those with the greatest possibility of being habitable.
And then there are future projects, such as The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which is slated to launch in 2027 and which will rely on several identification methods to further expand the list of recognized exoplanets. Two years later ESA’s ARIEL mission will come to life, which thanks to a technology developed by NASA and called CASE, will be able to study even better the atmospheric composition of distant worlds. More and more scientists and researchers believe that the discovery of planets capable of hosting extraterrestrial life forms is now only a matter of time.
While waiting for this to materialize, we leave you to a romantic animation created by associating the musical notes to the exoplanets discovered in the last 3 decades, starting with the first identified in 1992. The circles that you will see light up around the planets show the position and size of the planet. ‘orbit, while their color differentiates them according to the detection method used. Finally, the lower notes indicate longer orbits, the higher notes indicate shorter orbits.