The Pendleton Panther

32 New Exoplanets Found

Posted on: October 21, 2009

Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have discovered 32 new planets orbiting various stars in the galaxy.  The discovery was made at the La Silla observatory in Chile thanks to the High Accuracy Radial Planet Searcher or Harps.  The Harps spectrograph is connected in turn to a 3.6 meter telescope and has considerably contributed to the 400 exoplanets, or planets that exist outside of our solar system, that have thus far been found.  Because the planets aren’t visible even through the most powerful telescopes, they had to be found by analyzing the wobble that their stars underwent as each body pulled on the other.  Although none of the planets seemed inhabitable or particularly unusual, the importance of these discoveries relates to the masses of some of these bodies.  While a good number of high mass planets made up of toxic gasses were found, it was the lower mass planets that were exciting.  Massive gas planets were thought to make up the vast majority of exoplanets, severely reducing the probability that life could exist elsewhere in our galaxy, but, according to the ESO, as many as 40% of stars in our universe could be orbited by a planet of similar mass to Earth.

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