March 21 marked the hugely significant milestone of 5,005 exoplanets confirmed as discovered by NASA outside of our solar system and it’s supposed that every one has its own unique characteristics, being larger or smaller than Earth. 30% are gas giants, 31% are super-Earths, and 35% are Neptune-like. Just 4% are terrestrial, or rocky planets like Earth or Mars.They were observed using multiple detection techniques or methods of analysis. “Each one of them is a new world, a brand-new planet,” said astronomer Jessie Christiansen of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech. The Kepler Space Telescope, launched in 2009, contributed over 3,000 confirmed exoplanets to the list. There’s still a lot we don’t know, a lot of worlds out of our current detection methods, probably hundreds of billions. “None of us expected this enormous variety of planetary systems and stars.
It’s just amazing,” astronomer William Borucki of NASA declared. Scientists discovered the first exoplanets in the 1990s. New telescopes including the James Webb Space Telescope, launched in December, will only increase the potential for exoplanet discovery. The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will launch in 2027 and aid in the search for exoplanets with a variety of techniques. The European Space Agency’s ARIEL mission, launching in 2029, will study exoplanet atmospheres.