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The exoplanet files

What we know about alien worlds — and what’s coming next.

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Twenty years ago this month, astronomers announced the discovery of 51 Pegasi b, the first confirmed planet orbiting a Sun-like star. The hellish gas giant orbits just beyond the searing heat of its parent star, and it opened astronomers’ eyes to the astonishing range of alien worlds that exist throughout the Galaxy.

The tally of known extrasolar planets now stands at 1,978, with nearly 4,700 more candidates waiting to be confirmed. On 29 November, exoplanet researchers will gather in Hawaii to review these extreme solar systems — and map out a path for the next two decades.

Kepler picture redrawn from NASA image


Spectra from D. Deming et al. Astrophys. J. 774, 95–112 (2013), CC-BY-3.0

Source: R. Barnes, V. S. Meadows & N. Evans Astrophys. J. (in the press); Preprint at:

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  1. Avatar for Xinhang Shen
    Xinhang Shen
    This is a great achievement as these exoplanets will be new homes of our earth-originated human beings. Though they are many light years away, we should be able to invent faster-than-light spaceships propelling the medium of gravitation which delivers gravitational forces at a speed much faster than the speed of light because STR has been disproved ( ) and in principle there is no speed limit in the nature.
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