Peeking Out Our Cosmic Window

Peeking Out Our Cosmic Window

The existing of extra solar planets, planets beyond the 8 plus Pluto that we've all grown up with, is just a fact of life now. It's worth appreciating that just a few short years ago it was conjecture rather than fact that other planets existed around other stars. Sure, everyone was certain they were out there, but arguments raged about how many, what types, and whether our little solar system was pretty common place or a rare, fortuitous gem.  

The reality is that we have only had one concerted effort devoted to finding planets, the Kepler space telescope. That one effort has led to the rapid acceleration of extrasolar planetary discovery. With the first such planet confirmed in 1992, and just a handful in the decades since, the last 4 years has blossomed that number to nearly 1,000 - largely due to Kepler. Unfortunately that spacecraft has now failed, but it's worth putting these 1,000 planets in perspective (below). Here you can see what we know now, and zooming out to how much more there is to learn.

We have only scratched the surface of this realm of discovery and our children's textbooks will now always reference a galaxy we know is teaming with planets of myriad shapes, sizes and environments.

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