Using the statistics of the Gaia mission of the ESA and Keplero's K2 mission, an extension of the research mission of the original planet of Kepler, two recent studies have confirmed the existence of a total of 104 new planets extrasolar. Their characteristics extend far and wide, including multi-planet systems, rocky terrestrial worlds and planets orbiting dangerously close to their host stars. These new bodies can be used to understand how different types of planets are formed, and also to provide next-generation telescopes that promise worlds to investigate. Two documents describing these results were published on 2 August and 26 November a The Astronomical Journal.
This new group of exoplanets was discovered in two consecutive waves. In August, researchers at the University of Tokyo announced that they had confirmed 44 new exoplanets by combining K2 and Gaia data. Before Kepler was retired at the end of October, the space telescope performed short observation campaigns and sought the faint obscuration that occurs when a planet orbits around its host star. Combining this data with Gaia statistics, a space observatory that is creating a 3D map of a billion nearby stars, the researchers were able to eliminate false positives and confirm the new exoplanets.
Using this same method, researchers from the University of Tokyo collaborated with the Center of Astrobiology of National Institutes of Natural Sciences to confirm 60 additional extrasolar planets only three months later.
Research groups have not only been able to confirm the existence of 104 new planets, but have also learned something about them. They found two dozen planets living in multi-planet systems, with the sun-sized star K2-187 hosting only four. There are also 34 planets that probably have rock compositions and are less than twice the size of the Earth, but are probably uninhabitable due to subtle or non-existent atmospheres.
The most interesting thing is that the data show that seven of these new planets, including an orbit of K2-187, have ultra-short orbital periods – planets so close to the host stars that surround them in less than 24 hours. Our current theory of formation suggests that planets form much further in the orbit of a star, leaving astronomers to wonder how (or how long) these close-knit systems still exist.
Fortunately, there is still a lot of data on K2 to be examined, and the continued discovery of these particular planets will help shed light on their formations and evolution. Better yet, a new space telescope is already hunting for them.
"Although the Kepler Space Telescope was officially withdrawn by NASA, its successor telescope, called TESS, has already begun to collect data.In the first month of operations, TESS has already found many new exoplanets and will continue to discover many more We can expect many new interesting discoveries in the coming years, "said John Livingston of the University of Tokyo in a press release.
With the new extrasolar planets bursting out on the scene faster than ever, and the upcoming missions like the James Webb Space Telescope preparing to investigate them, we are preparing for another epochal discovery.