What is an exoplanet?
An exoplanet, also known as an extrasolar planet, is a planet that orbits a star outside our solar system. The first confirmed detection of an exoplanet occurred in 1992; since then, thousands of exoplanets have been discovered.
Exoplanets come in various sizes, ranging from smaller than Earth to larger than Jupiter. They can have diverse characteristics, such as rocky compositions, gaseous atmospheres, or both. Some exoplanets orbit their stars at distances that allow liquid water on their surfaces, which is considered a crucial factor for the potential development of life as we know it.
The methods used to detect exoplanets include the radial velocity method, which detects the gravitational pull of a planet on its star, causing the star to wobble, and the transit method, which observes the slight dimming of a star’s light as a planet passes in front of it. Other techniques, such as direct imaging and gravitational microlensing, are also employed to detect and study exoplanets.
The study of exoplanets has significantly expanded our understanding of the universe and the prevalence of planets beyond our solar system. It has provided insights into planetary formation, evolution, and the potential for habitability in other star systems.