Month: August 2023

Posted in Astronomy Planets Space

What Are Exoplanets?

Life beyond Earth has been a topic in most people’s conversations for centuries, and it’s fascinating to think that there could be a higher form of life out there somewhere in the multiverse.

However, while the multiverse may be hypothetical and is undoubtedly a vast subject to delve into entirely for newbies and space enthusiasts alike, the distant dream of life forms outside of Earth is kept afloat with the existence of Exoplanets.

If you’re here, then you might have an idea of what Exoplanets are. 

And even if you have stumbled on this article by chance, stick around cause we’ll be sure to tickle your curiosity with these strange new worlds that have been found. And how they bring the possibility of extraterrestrial beings living in the unknown!

But first, let’s start with the basics!

What Exactly Are Exoplanets?

In simplest terms, Exoplanets, or Extrasolar planets, are any planets that exist apart from our own solar system. These planets usually orbit around stars, like the Earth and the Sun, and most scientists believe each star can have one exoplanet.

On the other hand, some Exoplanets float in space without orbiting around a star, but in the galactic center, these Exoplanets are categorized as rogue planets. 

While the first-ever exoplanet was discovered around the 1990s, further into today, a total of more than 5000 Exoplanets have been discovered by scientists, and believe it or not, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

As we’ve mentioned, there is a possibility that each star has one exoplanet orbiting around it; even our galaxy has around 100 billion stars; imagine the Exoplanets that exist in our Universe, which hosts at least over 100 billion galaxies.

However, there are only a little over 5000 Exoplanets discovered today since most of these Exoplanets are located trillions of miles away, the closest being four light years, and like Earth, they reflect the light of their sun.

So naturally, the Exoplanets are hidden by the outshining light of various stars, even in our galaxy, making it extremely difficult to detect them with our current technologies.

These Exoplanets are made up of similar elements to the planets in our solar system but may differ in the mix of these elements. Some Exoplanets may be filled with ice or water, while some are filled with carbon or iron. 

Accordingly, these Exoplanets may be rocky like Venus or Earth or rich in gas like some of the planets in our solar system.

What Are The Types Of Exoplanets?

As we’ve mentioned, out of the thousands of Exoplanets discovered to date, scientists have figured out that the planets vary greatly depending on their composition and the exterior and interior appearance they hold!

Here are the types of Exoplanets you should know about.

The Terrestrial Exoplanets 

These Exoplanets are generally the size of the Earth or smaller and way miniature compared to most of the planets discovered. They are usually composed of carbon, water, rocks, or silicate. 

With the advancement of technologies, scientists are tirelessly investigating if some of these terrestrial Exoplanets, like the Trappist-1 e, are equipped with habitable atmospheres or oceans but are not limited to this. 

The Super-Earths

These Exoplanets are commonly known as terrestrial, yet differentiating them from other terrestrial Exoplanets is that they are more massive and even exceptionally larger than Earth. 

However, while Super-Earths may be twice as big as the Earth, they are light compared to giants like Uranus or Neptune, and in addition, they may be composed of gas, rocks, or both. 

Clouds of uncertainty reign above these Exoplanets with possible habitable conditions. Hence scientists are trying to uncover the mystery behind them since even though these types of planets are non-existent in our solar system, they resemble some of our planets. 

An example would be Kepler-186f which has the potential to turn out to be a rocky planet similar to Earth but exceptionally bigger.

The Neptunian Exoplanets

These Exoplanets are called the Neptunians since they are similar in size to our very own Uranus and Neptune. While the inner composition of Neptunians may differ, they are all commonly dominated by helium and hydrogen atmospheres paired with cores consisting of heavy metals or rocks.

This uncertainty about the composition of the elements on these Neptunian Exoplanets is due to their super heavy clouds that block light from going through them. This makes it hard for scientists to decipher the molecules present in their atmosphere. 

The Gas Giants/Exoplanets

Some of the largest Exoplanets that have been discovered are categorized as gas giants since they come head-to-head in size with the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, but they can even be much bigger. 

These Exoplanets are composed of hydrogen and/or helium, and much like our Jupiter, they don’t contain hard surfaces but rather have gases swirling above a solid planetary core.

Gas giant Exoplanets are also much closer to their stars, so their temperatures take off and are always in the thousands of degrees regardless of whether it’s in Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Studying Exoplanets

In recent times, even though we are not fully equipped with the best technologies to spot Exoplanets that are further than some trillion miles away, the possibility is endless, and we have so much time in our hands.

Navigating and studying these planets helps us learn the mysteries behind our Universe and how everything works in the dark unknown we call today as space. 

But perhaps, the most compelling reason why we study Exoplanets might be, indeed, with the hope of discovering sentient beings living among us, far away from what we call home.