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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain what we have learned from our discovery of exoplanets
  • Identify which kind of exoplanets appear to be the most common in the Galaxy
  • Discuss the kinds of planetary systems we are finding around other stars

Before the discovery of exoplanets, most astronomers expected that other planetary systems would be much like our own—planets following roughly circular orbits, with the most massive planets several AU from their parent star. Such systems do exist in large numbers, but many exoplanets and planetary systems are very different from those in our solar system. Another surprise is the existence of whole classes of exoplanets that we simply don’t have in our solar system: planets with masses between the mass of Earth and Neptune, and planets that are several times more massive than Jupiter.

Kepler results

The Kepler telescope has been responsible for the discovery of most exoplanets, especially at smaller sizes, as illustrated in [link] , where the Kepler discoveries are plotted in yellow. You can see the wide range of sizes, including planets substantially larger than Jupiter and smaller than Earth. The absence of Kepler-discovered exoplanets with orbital periods longer than a few hundred days is a consequence of the 4-year lifetime of the mission. (Remember that three evenly spaced transits must be observed to register a discovery.) At the smaller sizes, the absence of planets much smaller than one earth radius is due to the difficulty of detecting transits by very small planets. In effect, the “discovery space” for Kepler was limited to planets with orbital periods less than 400 days and sizes larger than Mars.

Exoplanet discoveries through 2015.

A graph of Exoplanet Discoveries through 2015. The vertical axis is labeled “Planet Radius R sub e”, from 0 to 40 increasing upward, and the horizontal axis is labeled “Orbital Period (days)”, from 1 to 100,000 increasing to the right. Exoplanet discoveries are marked with dots, yellow and red for discoveries by transits, and blue for discoveries by the Doppler technique. The largest concentration of exoplanets discovered by transits is shown from 1 Orbital Period and 1 Planet Radius to 1000 Orbital Period, and 4 Planet Radius. Exoplanets discovered by the Doppler technique are mostly above 4 Planet Radius and are should from 2 to 100,000 Orbital Period. Exoplanet discoveries are predominately on the lefthand side of the graph, extending in a diagonal line upward from the x-axis labeled Orbital Period. Earth is labeled at 1 Planet Radius, Neptune at 4, and Jupiter at 11 for reference.
The vertical axis shows the radius of each planet compared to Earth. Horizontal lines show the size of Earth, Neptune, and Jupiter. The horizontal axis shows the time each planet takes to make one orbit (and is given in Earth days). Recall that Mercury takes 88 days and Earth takes a little more than 365 days to orbit the Sun. The yellow and red dots show planets discovered by transits, and the blue dots are the discoveries by the radial velocity (Doppler) technique. (credit: modification of work by NASA/Kepler mission)

One of the primary objectives of the Kepler mission was to find out how many stars hosted planets and especially to estimate the frequency of earthlike planets. Although Kepler looked at only a very tiny fraction of the stars in the Galaxy, the sample size was large enough to draw some interesting conclusions. While the observations apply only to the stars observed by Kepler, those stars are reasonably representative, and so astronomers can extrapolate to the entire Galaxy.

[link] shows that the Kepler discoveries include many rocky, Earth-size planets, far more than Jupiter-size gas planets. This immediately tells us that the initial Doppler discovery of many hot Jupiters was a biased sample, in effect, finding the odd planetary systems because they were the easiest to detect. However, there is one huge difference between this observed size distribution and that of planets in our solar system. The most common planets have radii between 1.4 and 2.8 that of Earth, sizes for which we have no examples in the solar system. These have been nicknamed super-Earths , while the other large group with sizes between 2.8 and 4 that of Earth are often called mini-Neptunes .

Questions & Answers

hi, I am yamini, I am in class 8 but very much interested in astronomy and go to NASA, what are the subjects in which I can master and lead to NASA.
yamini Reply
Hello Yamini, Im Ken and I'm avery intrested in joining the NASA too. Is nice to meet you.
Ken
very*
Ken
nice to meet u ken
yamini
What I know about the subjects is that you have to be a master on science and math, also if you know about aviation is better too
Ken
I read that the Russian language is very important, is not a requirement but it's like an extra point!
Ken
yeah like physics, chemistry and maths, they are my most favorite.
yamini
than you can go free of cost
Arush
Yes, That's right!
Ken
how
yamini
Oh! Free of cost?
Ken
hello yamini nice to meet you
Burak
what is time
Abdul Reply
Time is relative
mrunal
pls elaborate
sakshi
the clear defination.I know that.
Abdul
In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
Maya
It has been proven that there are water molecules on Mars but not enough that most lifeforms could thrive upon.
Ariana
There are huge amounts of water in the ice caps and under the surface. The surface and chemistry indicate that Mars had cosiderable amounts of water on its surface in the past.
Julius
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
Maya
I agree
sakshi
hmm even I agree
Samuel
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Adam
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
Adam
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
Maya
which could have existed life on it
Maya
adam i want to ask a question
Maya
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
Maya
hello, anyone home?
Denise
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
Samuel
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
Samuel
nice to meet you
Samuel
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
how should I make my carrier in astronomy
Ayush Reply
I think that Newton's third law is not appropriate if any also thinks like this please reply me
Ayush
Can you explain your reasoning
Huh
why u think so
joseph
yes Ayush u are right
Yoganshu
I think when we apply force to a object it start moving but , a/c to Newton's third law every action has equal and opposite reaction,so object should also exert equal force on us and it should not move due to balanced force
Ayush
if I am not right then reply me
Ayush
no
Zack
because of friction that opposes that force and help us to move ahead
Manish
but this is not satisfied as third law say another thing
Ayush
you are telling why object moves
Ayush
you have to think a/c to third law
Ayush
its because of its mass
Maya
because it is applying equal and opposite force but also our mass is also less in comparison to the object
Maya
which is why we cant move the object but it can make move us
Maya
manish is too correct in his place because we need to apply force which would overcome the frictional force
Maya
My dear friends, can u plz tell me that among u guys who are in the field of cosmology
Madhav Reply
😢I am not there in cosmology
Samuel
Just A Science Fan.....
Adam
Adam even I am 😥😅😅😂😂
Samuel
I am also not in cosmology but I am just a fan or we can say science and part of NASA is my dream
Yoganshu
yoganshu Arya same here
Samuel
you are from which country
Yoganshu
hi yoganshu
Samuel
India
Samuel
which state
Samuel
I am also from India
Yoganshu
from delhi
Yoganshu
and u...?
Yoganshu
I am from Maharashtra
Samuel
from which state?
Yoganshu
You are a ASTRONOMER ...
Yoganshu
or a scientist..
Yoganshu
or just a member
Yoganshu
What is time...? not about Newton= time is constant..... that all scientists openions n point of view I m knowing. . what can be the Perfect Definition of Time
Madhav Reply
time is what clock reads
Ayush
Who is the best astronomer of India at present time
Gian Reply
Jayant Narlikar, Proponent Of Steady State Cosmology.....
Adam
What is the real colour of sun rays
Gian Reply
white.. so white it becomes violet.. so violet it become ultraviolet
Tom
white and red and yellow
Bianca
Vibgyor
Samuel
the real colour of sunlight is White
Madhav
the Sun's has a variety of waves all throughout the elextromagnetic spectrum.
Jacie
we only see it as a few bc of how some of them get redshifted (? can that term be applied for something so local?) by some particles in our upper atmosphere
Jacie
Vibgyor will be when, the white light will pass through the clouds ( prism ) then Refraction phenomenon leads us to 7 colours splitting from a single colour "White " light
Madhav
so the sun rays r of White colour
Madhav
Taurus in astronomy and horoscope?
Yasser Reply
how to put E=MC2
Gospel Reply
What Do You Mean By How To Put?
Adam
What Do You Mean By How To Put?
Adam
What Do You Mean By "How To Put E=MC2?
Adam
yep
Gospel
Hi guys
Samuel
i mean how NASA came to know the mass and diameters of Stars.how?
Gospel
how did they do using E=MC2
Gospel
thats my questioning
Gospel
that's easy formula's derivation
Madhav
Practice Key Terms 2

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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