Exoplanets: What Is Our Place In The Universe?

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Space is a vast and unexplored region, the exploration of which is necessary to satiate mankind’s curiosity and answer the enduring question, “What is our place in the universe?” The need to explore and understand the universe we live in has driven us to establish government agencies, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), whose main goal is to study outer space. NASA’s projects have led to many great advancements, including the development of new technology and the improvement of daily life. Still, NASA seeks to explore other regions of the universe that have yet to be discovered or understood. One such study is that of exoplanets, which are planetary bodies outside of our solar …show more content…
Space-based photometers such as the Hubble Telescope and Kepler have already been launched into orbit around Earth. These telescopes were some of the first catalysts in the discovery of exoplanets. As of December 3, 2015, scientists have confirmed 1,916 exoplanet candidates as true planets (“NASA Exoplanet Archive”). Kepler and Hubble use radial velocity observing methods, which utilize the transit method and Doppler shift of a star, to identify exoplanets. If there is an exoplanet present in the host star’s system, the planet’s gravitational pull will cause both objects to begin to orbit around a common center of mass. As the star begins to move, its brightness will increase and decrease as observed from Earth. Furthermore, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is being developed to detect extremely faint signals in infrared light. The telescope contains microshutters able to observe up to 100 objects at the same time (“About the James Webb Space Telescope”). Once launched, the telescope will rest at the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point, 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth. This location, combined with its infrared design, will allow the JWST to view the youngest galaxies of our universe (“How does the Webb Contrast with Hubble?”). The JWST will also study the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems, thus advancing the search for extraterrestrial life on exoplanets (“Vital Facts”). This telescope will reveal many new exoplanets and will allow for the calculations of many other physical properties of exoplanets, making it a great aid in understanding the evolution of planetary systems and searching for extraterrestrial

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