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A PLACE FOR LIFE

Formation of Our Solar System

Ingredients for Life

Habitability

Research Profiles

Credits

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A Place for Life: A Special Astronomy Exhibit of Understanding Evolution

Exoplanets

Outside of our own Solar System, we now know of many exoplanets orbiting other stars. Exoplanets around Sun-like stars were first detected in the 1990s, and since then, thousands are on their way to being confirmed thanks to new telescopes and instruments. In fact, the Kepler space telescope and other planet-hunting telescopes have helped astronomers confirm that planets are common, with perhaps hundreds of billions of exoplanets in the Milky Way Galaxy alone, and something like 1022 planets in the observable Universe. Although astronomers can most easily detect large planets in close-in orbits — gas giants that are often heated to searing temperatures by their parent stars — many smaller planets that may be rocky like Earth have been found, some of which are in Earth-like orbits around Sun-like stars.

Dry valley of the Antartic
This chart compares the smallest known exoplanets, or planets orbiting outside the solar system, to our own planets Mars and Earth.

Exoplanets image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Habitability
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Exoplanets: Crash Course Astronomy #27