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Exoplanets or Extrasolar Planets are planets that orbit distant stars. At least
100 Extrasolar Planets (exoplanets) have been found in other Star Systems, but they cannot be seen
vary from Jupiter-like planets that orbit much closer
to their star than our Planet Mercury to giant planets that have orbits beyond
our Planet Pluto in distance from their star.
Planet Hunters refers to astronomers
looking for planets beyond our
Solar System. Planet Hunting involves studying the movement of the stars and their light.
The aim of many astronomers is to find Earth-sized planets that might harbour
In 1995, Astronomers, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz from Switzerland discovered
the first planet orbiting another star like the Sun. The star is called
51 Pegasi. The extra solar planet was detected by observing the star wobble.
How to find a Planet?
reason astronomers cannot see the planets around stars is because
there is too much light and glare as the planets are too close to
In the future, space telescopes such as the Terrestrial Planet
Finder may use masking techniques to mask out the light.
At present the most powerful telescopes
cannot see planets around stars, however, astronomers have
developed techniques to detect them. The techniques include:
from a star can reveal hints that the gravity of an unseen planet
is tugging it back and forth.
crossing the face of a
star causes the starlight to dim. The dimming can reveal the
planets size and even hint at its composition.
A newly formed planet will still be hot from its
formation and will emit infra red light perhaps enough for a telescope to pick up.
1. New Worlds in
the Cosmos : The Discovery of Exoplanets
by Michel Mayor (Author), Pierre-Yves Frei
(Author), Boud Roukema (Translator)
Wanderers: The Search for Planets Beyond the Solar System by Bruce Dorminey
Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the
by Peter Douglas Ward, Donald Brownlee
Painting of a Saturn-sized planet around the white star
Copyright ?2000-2003 David A
Hardy. All rights reserved.
This photo may not be copied for any purpose without David A Hardy's
Extrasolar Planets Links
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Space 1999 Set 5 2 Discs DVD
with a Hubble Space Telescope image of Mars.