November 22, 2021: NASA Says, “Scientists have added a whopping 301 newly confirmed exoplanets to the total exoplanet tally.”
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Over 300 newly validated exoplanets have been added to the tally of 4,569 known planets in other star systems.
ExoMiner, a computer system that studies data from scientific data, has moved through raw numbers to uncover this latest batch of finds. The system learns from its mistakes and refines how it finds actual exoplanets. The system supports data surveys by expert observers and even citizen scientists.
The system takes data from the Kepler spacecraft that looks at the stars in its field of view. Possibly seeing a thousand stars at a time, ExoMiner pores through the data looking for the tell-tale signs of possible exoplanets.
The general plan to find exoplanets is to monitor the light from the stars. If a planet is revolving around the star, it passes between the star and the satellite. The planet blocks a small portion of starlight that the satellite can detect. A light curve is plotted to show the dip in the star’s brightness. If the dip repeats in a predictable pattern, then an exoplanet might be the culprit causing the change of brightness.
The potential exoplanet’s distance from the star, its mass and size can be estimated from the depth of the light curve and the speed of repetition.
Once a candidate exoplanet is found, other techniques, such as the wobble in the main star’s motion and direct photographs are two of the method that help confirm the presence of the planet around the star.
It is estimated that on average, there is at least one planet for every star in the Milky Way galaxy.
The scoreboard for locating more planets is likely to increase. ExoMiner is one way to help look for new planets in the celestial haystack.
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