The goal of the global exoplanet hunt has remained to discover another world like Earth that has the resources needed to support human life. International astronomers have been searching for unusual planets outside of our Solar System where humanity might one day advance.
The year 2022 saw significant progress in that direction as astronomers from all over the world discovered more than 200 extrasolar planets, some of which are now ready for more in-depth study by the James Webb Space Telescope and other telescopes.
Less than 5,000 planets were listed in the exoplanet catalogue at the beginning of the year since the planetary survey outside of our Solar System started. There are 5,235 exoplanets in that list of potentially habitable planets as the year comes to a close.
All of Prime, half the price.
Qualifying government assistance recipients can access all of Prime for $6.99/month (reg. /month).
“Less than 5,000 exoplanets had been confirmed when the year began. 5,235 worlds are known as of the end. Earth and Mars are rocky planets that make up about 4% of the solar system. What surprises will the new year hold? further planets!” In a tweet, NASA stated.
When it comes to their makeup and characteristics, the exoplanet catalogues so far contain a wide range of worlds. These include hot Jupiters in scorchingly close orbits around their stars, gas giants many times larger than Jupiter, and small, rocky worlds similar to Earth.
The list also includes “super-Earths,” potentially rocky worlds larger than our own, and “mini-Neptunes,” scaled-down versions of the Neptune in our solar system.
The most recent planet to be found in 2022 is HD 109833 b, an exoplanet that resembles Neptune and revolves around a G-type star. Its mass is 8.69 Earths, and according to NASA, it completes one orbit around its star in 9.2 days. Astronomers who observed the star and noticed a trough in its brightness each time the object passed in front of it used the transit method to find it.
Also discovered by astronomers were two previously undiscovered exoplanets that are distinct in their composition and orbit a red dwarf star. These two water-filled planets are situated in a planetary system 218 light-years from Earth in the Lyra constellation. The planets, which are roughly 1.5 times as big as the Earth, were found by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope along with their host star.
While water hasn’t been directly observed, scientists have concluded that a sizeable portion of the planets’ volume—up to half of it—should be composed of substances that are lighter than rock but heavier than hydrogen or helium.
In 2023, there is still a good chance that astronomers will find a habitable planet that orbits a star similar to our Sun.