Exoplanetology is the study of planets beyond our Solar System (exoplanets being short for “extrasolar planets”). Perhaps the greatest challenge for exoplanetology is simply finding such planets. Planets are so small and dim compared to their parent stars, that spotting them against the backdrop of the star is extremely difficult.
Confirmed discoveries of exoplanets have only been made since 1988, though the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno proposed their existence in the sixteenth century. Observatories on Earth and in space have since found thousands of candidates for planets around other stars and new discoveries are being made on a daily basis.
Scientists working in this field use an interdisciplinary approach to their research: astronomy and astrophysics are particularly important for detection and observation; astrogeology and astrobiology. Exoplanetology is a young science and there are plenty of Things We Don’t Know.
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Learning about other planetary systems teaches us a lot about our own planet and could potentially lead us to finding extra-terrestrial life!
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