Planets are the Universe’s tiniest, brightest, and closest objects. They can be found in the solar system as well as in the stars. Planets are the longest-living objects in the Universe, lasting billions of years.
NASA has spent decades researching our solar system and has discovered numerous new aspects of the Universe and beyond. NASA recently announced that the number of confirmed exoplanets had surpassed 5,000, marking the end of a 30-year voyage of discovery headed by NASA space telescopes.
We lived in a universe where there were just a few known planets, all of which orbited our sun. However, a recent flurry of discoveries represents a watershed moment in science: more than 5,000 planets beyond our solar system have already been confirmed.
The latest batch of 65 exoplanets—planets outside our immediate solar family—was added to the NASA Exoplanet Archive on March 21, marking the start of the planetary odometer.
Small, rocky worlds like Earth, gas giants many times larger than Jupiter, and “hot Jupiters” in scorchingly close orbits around their stars are among the 5,000-plus planets discovered thus far. There are “super-Earths,” which are potentially larger rocky worlds than our own, and “mini-Neptunes,” which are smaller copies of Neptune in our system. Add planets orbiting two stars at the same time, as well as planets doggedly orbiting the collapsing remnants of dead stars, to the mix.
“To my thinking, it is inevitable that we’ll find some kind of life somewhere—most likely of some primitive kind,” said Wolszczan, exoplanets professor at Penn State.
The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, which is set to launch in 2027, will use a range of techniques to find new exoplanets.