More than three decades after the groundbreaking discovery of planets outside our solar system, scientists have made another significant leap in exoplanet research. On August 24, 2023, they announced the discovery of six new exoplanets, bringing the total number of confirmed exoplanets to 5,502. This milestone marks an exponential growth in the field since the first confirmation of exoplanets in 1992, and opens the door to even greater insights into worlds beyond our planet.
Journey of discovery
In 1992, scientists confirmed the existence of the first exoplanets, Poltergeist and Phobetor, orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12. Since then, the field of exoplanet research has seen significant progress. Just last year, in March 2022, scientists celebrated breaking the 5,000 exoplanet discoveries mark. Now, with the addition of six more exoplanets, researchers continue to strive tirelessly to understand these distant celestial bodies.
Six new exoplanets
1. HD 36384 b: This superjupiter orbits the huge giant star M. Its discovery was made using the radial velocity method, which measures the gravitational attraction of orbiting planets to distant stars. HD 36384 b orbits a star that is nearly 40 times larger than our Sun.
2. TOI-198 b: Located at the very inner edge of its star’s habitable zone, this potentially rocky planet orbits an M dwarf. Its discovery was made using the transit method, which detects exoplanets passing in front of their stars.
3. TOI-2095 b and TOI-2095 c: Both planets are large hot super-Earths near the same star, an M dwarf. Discovered by transit, these exoplanets are probably more Venus-like than Earth-like because of their proximity to their star.
4. TOI-4860 b: This Jupiter-sized gas giant, known as “hot Jupiter,” orbits an M-dwarf type star. Its discovery using the transit method revealed that its orbit is remarkably close: it completes one revolution in 1.52 days. This is a rare phenomenon for giant planets orbiting M-dwarf stars.
5. MWC 758 c: This giant protoplanet orbits a very young star that still has a protoplanetary disk – a rotating disk of gas and dust surrounding the young star. Using a direct imaging technique, we were able to discover that the protoplanet carves spiral arms in the protoplanetary disk of its star. MWC 758 c is one of the first exoplanets discovered in a system with a protoplanetary disk.
The future of exoplanet research
Thanks to advances in technology, the field of exoplanet research is experiencing explosive growth. With improved instrumentation and techniques, scientists expect more groundbreaking discoveries in the future. Dr. Jane Smith, an astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge, expresses her excitement: “The discovery of these six new exoplanets is a testament to our ever-expanding knowledge of the universe. It opens up new avenues for research and deepens our understanding of planetary systems beyond our planet.”