After reading an article about how the “trickle of planet discoveries” as become a “flood” -referring to the many discoveries of extrasolar planets that are being announced these days, since they first started being discovered in
1995 1988/9 (there are more than 200 known now)- I looked at space.com’s “top ten most intriguing extrasolar planets”.
[Update: First detection of extrasolar planets is probably more accurately to be dated 1988/9. The first confirmed one was in 1995, but the planet Gamma_Cephei_Ab, detected in 1988(9) by two separate teams, took until 2002 to be confirmed. See e.g. here for more. Thanks commenter molliska!]
- 10: 51 Pegasi b, the first confirmed (see above update) one found, 1995;
- 9: Epsilon Eridani b, the closest known one (only 10.5 light years away);
- 8: the class of planemos, the extrasolar planets which are not orbiting any stars;
- 7: SWEEPS-10, a “zippy” planet, that orbits its star every 10 hours as opposed to our sluggish 365.25 days;
- 6: Upsilon Andromeda b, a planet which is tidally locked to its star so that it presents only one face to it all the time. So one side is always super hot, while the other is very cold;
- 5: The youngest one known (it’s been in existence a bit less than a million years), orbiting the star Coku Tau 4;
- 4: PSR B1620-26c, the oldest one known (12.7 billion years…wow!);
- 3: The “shrinking one”, HD209458b, that orbits so close to its star that it’s losing an estimated 10000 tons of its material every second due to gales of solar wind from the star;
- 2: HD 189733b, one of the first to have a spectral analysis done of its atmosphere’s chemical composition;
- 1: Gliese 581 C, the first one found that is getting close to earth-like characteristics (only five times the size), and in the “Goldilocks” zone (not too hot, not too cold), from our perspective. (See the blog post I did here.)
You can read much more about these sometimes extreme objects at the site, and find links to articles that talk about each in full. (Don’t take seriously the artist’s renderings they rather ridiculously refer to as “photos”, such as the one above of the Gliese system.) These discoveries have taught us a great deal about our universe, and are almost certainly just the beginning of what we are to learn about other solar systems. Finally, it’s also worth remembering that they’ll tell us a lot about how our own solar system works, and ultimately will help us understand more about ourselves. Yet another example of the remarkable times we find ourselves in, scientifically.
Some Related Asymptotia Posts (not exhaustive):