Our solar system is only one of many planetary systems, consisting of a star and planets that orbit around it. Although our planetary system is the only one officially designated as a “solar system,” astronomers have discovered more than 3,200 other stars in our galaxy that have planets orbiting around them. So far, we’ve only discovered a small number of them. The likelihood is that there are many more planetary systems out there waiting to be discovered.
Exoplanets in Our Galaxy
Our Sun is one of approximately 200 billion stars that make up our galaxy. This provides scientists with a plethora of opportunities to search for exoplanets, which are planets that exist outside of our solar system. However, only recently have our capabilities advanced to the point where astronomers are able to detect such planets in their natural environment.
Why Finding Solar System So Difficult In Our Galaxy?
Even our nearest neighboring stars are trillions of light years away from us. In addition, all stars are enormous and extremely bright when compared to the planets that orbit them in the sky. As a result, spotting a planet near a distant star is analogous to spotting a firefly right next to a brilliant lighthouse thousands of kilometers away.
Other Solar Systems Of Our Galaxy?
So far, the planets outside of our solar system have proven to be both fascinating and diverse in their natural environments. With a mass approximately eight times that of the Earth, one planet, known as HD 40307g, is considered a “super Earth.” The gravitational pull would be much greater there than it is here at the Earth. You would weigh twice as much as you do on Earth if you went there! Another planet, designated Kepler-16b, turns out to be in a binary system with two stars. There would be a view of two setting stars if the sun set there at sunset!
In another planetary system, TRAPPIST-1, there are not one… not two… but seven Earth-sized planets that have the potential to be covered in liquid water. In addition, the planets are relatively close together. The surface of a TRAPPIST-1 planet could have as many as six other planets visible on the horizon if you were standing there!
What will it take for astronomers to continue discovering distant solar systems?
During its nine-year mission, NASA’s Kepler space telescope discovered more than 2,600 exoplanets. It has also compiled a list of more than 3,000 additional potential exoplanets, which astronomers will need to investigate further to determine whether or not they are, in fact, planets.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission of NASA is continuing the search for exoplanets in space. In contrast to Kepler, who focused his search on a specific patch of the sky, TESS is observing the entire sky in order to detect thousands of planets orbiting the nearest and brightest stars. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets orbiting the nearest and brightest stars.
Recent Updates On Finding Solar Systems
The James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2021, will also observe many of the exoplanets that have been discovered so far, and will aid scientists in deciphering the details of these faraway worlds.
Who knows what will happen? Astronomers hope to find an answer to the intriguing question of whether or not there is life on other planets or in other solar systems one day by studying exoplanets and other distant solar systems.
10 Need-to-Know Things About the Universe
01. BIG DISCOVERIES
Following Edwin Hubble’s study of the stars, it was discovered that our galaxy, which was previously believed to be the entire universe, is actually one of billions in an expanding universe.
02. SMALL MATTER
Dark energy and dark matter account for 95% of the Universe’s total energy and matter. The remaining five percent is made up of everything else, including everything on Earth, all of the planets and stars, and everything else.
03. A LOT OF NOTHING
The majority of our universe is made up of empty space. All of the galaxies and clusters of galaxies that comprise the visible universe are concentrated within a complex scaffold that is surrounded by vast empty spaces.
04. COSMIC NEIGHBOURHOOD
The Milky Way galaxy is part of the Local Group, which is comprised of approximately 30 galaxies. Andromeda is the name given to our nearest major neighboring galaxy.
05. MORE PLANETS THAN STARS
We know of thousands of planets — known as exoplanets — that are orbiting other stars in our galaxy, and we are still discovering more. Each and every star visible in the night sky contains on average at least one planet, as can be seen by looking up into the night sky.
06. COMMON SPIRAL
Approximately two-thirds of all known galaxies have a spiral shape, similar to our own Milky Way galaxy. The majority of the remaining items have elliptical (oval-like) shapes, with a few exhibiting unusual shapes such as toothpicks and rings.
07. MANY GALAXIES
The Hubble Space Telescope’s observations of a small patch of space (a fraction of the diameter of the Moon) revealed more than 5,500 galaxies, as depicted in the image above.
08. IS ANYONE OUT THERE?
Scientists are on the lookout for other planetary systems that may harbor the potential to support life. So far, Earth is the only planet known to have been home to intelligent life.
09. NO ESCAPE
There is a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, and it is consuming everything in its path. A black hole is formed when a large amount of matter is compressed into a small area, creating a gravitational field that is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape from the object.
10. BILLIONS AND BILLIONS
There could be a hundred billion galaxies in the universe, according to some estimates. In our own Milky Way galaxy, there are at least a hundred billion stars, including our sun, which is just one of the stars in our galaxy.