MAR 25, 2019 6:02 AM PDT

Number of Confirmed Exoplanets Due to Surpass 4,000

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

While it’s true that astronomers spend much of their time studying our very own solar system for clues surrounding the habitability of Earth’s nearest planets, astronomers also spend a lot of time peering through telescopes at distant stellar systems in search of potential exoplanets.

An artist's rendition of an exoplanet.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Exoplanets are fundamentally planets that reside outside of our solar system, and they have been of particular interest to astronomers for eons. Studying exoplanetary characteristics can facilitate a better understanding of how planets form and aid astronomers in determining whether those remote systems hold the potential to support life.

As it would seem, astronomers have discovered and validated the existence of just under 4,000 exoplanets to date. With many more exoplanet candidates in the pipeline today, it won’t be long now until astronomers hit the significant 4K milestone.

According to the BBC, at least 2,423 exoplanet candidates discovered by NASA’s retired Kepler Space Telescope are still awaiting validation at the time of this writing, and a further 443 exoplanet candidates detected by NASA’s new Transitioning Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) are still awaiting validation.

These discoveries are referred to as ‘exoplanet candidates’ because dips in starlight have been identified involving certain host stars, but astronomers haven’t yet had the opportunity to point a more precise space telescope (such as Hubble or the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope) at those stellar systems to validate the existence of an exoplanet.

Related: Some exoplanets may be rich in rubies and sapphires

It’s worth noting that most (if not all) exoplanet discoveries to date have happened right here in our Milky Way galaxy because other galaxies are far too distant to observe under a cosmic microscope for the existence of exoplanets.

With that in mind, 4,000 might seem like a high number, but it isn’t – we haven’t found or validated every exoplanet in the Milky Way by a long shot, and there are seemingly endless galaxies in the universe besides our own. Given the circumstances, the number of exoplanets in existence today is exponentially higher than what we’ve come to realize.

"The great news is that we shift from a starry sky to a planetary sky, as there are more planets than stars; and also that the planetary systems have great diversity of structure, with planets orbiting zero, one, two... stars, or other planets," elucidated Dr. Françoise Roques from the Observatoire de Paris in a comment to the BBC.

Related: Will TESS provide new insights regarding exoplanets?

Indeed, exoplanetary exploration is still very ripe, and it won’t be long now before there are at least 4,000 confirmed exoplanets in existence.

Astronomers expect that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will speed up the identification and validation of distant exoplanets because of its powerful infrared observation capabilities; however, a multitude of setbacks have delayed its launch, compelling astronomers to fall back to the less powerful Hubble Space Telescope.

Once astronomers hit the 4,000 exoplanet milestone, you’d better believe that they’ll be aiming for 5,000 and beyond.

Source: BBC

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Signatures of Life on Earth Remotely
JUN 21, 2021
Scientists Detect Signatures of Life on Earth Remotely
An international team led by researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland and the National Centre of Competenc ...
JUL 04, 2021
Space & Astronomy
After the Big Bang Came the Cosmic Dawn
JUL 04, 2021
After the Big Bang Came the Cosmic Dawn
It's been estimated that the universe began about 13.8 billion years ago in a violent explosion known as the Big Bang. R ...
AUG 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Confirm Exoplanet at Half the Mass of Venus
AUG 10, 2021
Researchers Confirm Exoplanet at Half the Mass of Venus
An international collaboration of researchers has identified a rocky exoplanet half the size of Venus, making it the low ...
OCT 13, 2021
Space & Astronomy
NASA Plans to Bring Mars Rocks Back to Earth
OCT 13, 2021
NASA Plans to Bring Mars Rocks Back to Earth
In continuing the time-honored tradition of celestial rock collecting, NASA’s Perseverance rover has collected a s ...
OCT 21, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Cosmic Radiation Events shed light on Norse Settlement in the Americas
OCT 21, 2021
Cosmic Radiation Events shed light on Norse Settlement in the Americas
A new open access study published in Nature yesterday showcases a relatively new method in archaeology. In an attempt to ...
NOV 12, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Reveal Changes in Jupiter's Spot
NOV 12, 2021
Researchers Reveal Changes in Jupiter's Spot
There's a massive storm on Jupiter called the Great Red Spot. It swirls in the planet's Southern Hemisphere, spinning co ...
Loading Comments...