Tau1 Gruis, the star that the newly discovered exoplanet orbits around.
Courtesy of NASA/JPL

More than 100 planets orbit distant stars!
News story originally written on September 25, 2002

Astronomers have identified another exoplanet, that is, a planet outside our solar system. This makes a total of 102 exoplanets that have so far been found by astronomers!

The astronomers that identified this exoplanet, have been searching outside our solar system for planets that are similar to Earth. The planet they found is circling the star Tau1 Gruis and is three times as far from its star as Earth is from the Sun. The newly discovered planet has a mass similar to that of Jupiter. The solar system of this newly discovered planet is organized a bit like ours, with the planets strung out in a line from the star and the larger ones further away.

How do astronomers find exoplanets? They look for stars that appear to wobble because of the gravitational pull of orbiting planets. The wobble can be detected by a Doppler shift in the starís light indicating the presence of a planet. This is then fine tuned to assess the planetís distance from the star and mass.

After astronomers have a good idea which of the exoplanets are like Earth, their next step is to look for evidence of life by analyzing the chemistry of the planet and its atmosphere, searching for carbon, carbon dioxide, and ozone. Perhaps they will someday find evidence that we are not alone in the universe!

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

An Exoplanet that Looks Like Jupiter!

A team of astronomers, who have been peering into the skies for many years, announced that they have found 13 planets outside our solar system called exoplanets. This brings the total number of known exoplanets...more

1999--A Year in Review...

It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more

STS-95 Launch: "Let the wings of Discovery lift us on to the future."

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on October 29th at 2:19 p.m. EST. The weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit. This was the United States' 123rd...more

Moon Found Orbiting Asteroid

A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more

U.S. is Fed Up with Russia

Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials want an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting to be...more

More on Recent Coronal Mass Ejection

A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on the Sun early last month. The material that was thrown out from this explosion passed the ACE spacecraft. The SWICS instrument on ACE has produced a new and very...more

Mother Nature's Air Conditioning

J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service called forests the "heart and lungs of the world." This is because forests filter air and water pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and maintain...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA