Tuesday, November 30, 2010

500th exoplanet identified!

Did you know that astronomers already discovered 500 planets outside of our solar system (exoplanets)?

In the past 15 years, the count of those extrasolar worlds has climbed through single digits into the dozens and then into the hundreds. The pace of discovery is now so rapid that the catalogue of identified planets leaped from 400 to 500 entries in just over a year.

Scientific American interviewed Jean Schneider, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory, who is the record keeper of exoplanets in the The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia.

According to the Encyclopaedia, the closest exoplanet is eps Eridani b, which is only 3.2 parsecs away (=10.43 light years). A spaceship travelling at light speed would need ten years to get there. Unfortunately, technology is currently not available to build spaceships that get even near that speed. Maybe a matter/antimatter-engine will be available one day, if CERN can produce some more antimatter (see blog entry on antimatter here).

How One Astronomer Became the Unofficial Exoplanet Record Keeper

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