The first phase of the Kepler mission discovered thousands of potential exoplanets. 1,031 of these were confirmed while the other 4,696 are listed as ‘candidates.’ Scientists believe the vast majority of these ‘candidates’ will eventually be confirmed.
Astronomy grad student Ethan Kruse decided to make a sweet animation that shows how the orbits of these solar systems differ from our solar system.
Here’s what you need to know when you’re watching the video.
– Kruse is showing multi-planet systems discovered by Kepler. There are 685 of them with 1705 planets. It appears Kruse is including some of the candidates.
– The size of the planets are not to scale, but the orbits are. Kruse explains: “For example, Jupiter is actually 11x larger than Earth, but that scale makes Earth-size planets almost invisible (or Jupiters annoyingly large).”
– The orbits of our solar system are represented by the dotted line.
Of the 1,031 confirmed exoplanets, just 12 of them are less than twice the size of Earth and located in the habitable zone. The video perfectly backs up these findings. You see all the white (surface of Venus) and orange/red (lava)? Yeah, humans don’t do to well in temperatures exceeding 800 degrees. The high temperatures are due to how close many exoplanets orbit their host star.
Why does Kepler discover planets so close to their star? Because of the transit method. Kepler is on the lookout for planets that cross in front of their host star as they orbit. As they do so, they affect the brightness of the star. How much this brightness is affected can tell scientists how large the planet is. And how long the transit takes can be used to figure out its orbit around the star. The easiest planets to spot? Those with the shortest orbits, and therefore, closest to their star.