Astronomers find ‘billions of planets’
There are other planets everywhere we look in the sky
There are “hundreds of billions” of planets in our galaxy just waiting to be discovered, a team of Scottish scientists has found. Astronomers from the University of St Andrews said that wherever we look in the sky, there are planets, even though we can’t see them.
The team spent six years studying data from telescopes based all around the southern hemisphere, from Australia to Chile. They only looked at a tiny portion of the Milky Way and found just a few planets.
But they say that they can use what they found to estimate how many other planets there are in the rest of the galaxy. Around 700 planets beyond our solar system have been discovered since 1995.
Dr Martin Dominik, who led the team, said:
“So far, we have detected only a tiny fraction of planets out there. We expect hundreds of billions exist in the Milky Way alone.”
But he can’t say if there could be life on any of them. There are several ways that scientists can use to find exoplanets. The St Andrews scientists looked for an increase in light from a star, which is caused by gravity when a planet or another star passes between the Earth and the star.
NASA’s Kepler telescope looks for fluctuations in light from a star as a planet orbiting crosses in front of it. When its orbiting planet passes in front of a star, it blocks out some of the star’s light.
This video shows you how NASA’s Kepler telescope finds exoplanets:
Remember that the next time you are looking at the sky on a clear night!
Why has no one found these planets before?
While we now think that there are 100 billion planets in the Milky Way alone, only about 700 have been identified. Apparently, we only know very little so far, and there is much left to explore.
Adapted from an article in the Daily What News