Missing: Thousands of planets


23 Responses to “Missing: Thousands of planets”

  1. pauldrye says:

    And further on the examination of Kepler data and Planet Hunters — the satellite uses the transit method, which means looking for dips in the light of a star when a planet passes in front of it. We (by which I mean the planethunters.org user base — I say “we” because I’ve personally looked at over 6000 light curves and was the first to note several candidates for planethood) have been doing pretty well.

    One of our users, Goryus, has been carefully weeding through what people have found and removed the eclipsing binary stars, false positives, and transits already found by the official Kepler team to come up with the following collection of could-be planets:


    Just think, out of the 264 listed in there many of them are going to be planets — and one of them could have been found by you. New data is going up Wednesday afternoon, the 2nd.

    Personally, I find it quite a rush.

  2. kumquatparadise says:


  3. Anonymous says:

    [Given that we think there are thousands of extrasolar planets out there in the universe,] “shouldn’t we actually be finding more planets?”

    The limitation isn’t the number of planets out there to be found, its the time our current methods take to find them, and the number of telescopes and other resources we’re using to do it. If you think you know a faster way to find them, maybe you should be an astronomy professor instead of a journalist.

    • Dewi Morgan says:

      People who comment without reading past the jump, and hence misinterpret it completely, are delightful in a schadenfreudetastic kind of a way.

      • Nelson.C says:

        But if he’d stopped to actually read the article, then he wouldn’t have been able to post so early. Getting that coveted “First” post requires dedication that slacker posters like us just can’t understand.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If you assume that planets are an inevitable byproduct of stars, then of course we should be finding more planets. That’s a pretty significant assumption to just wave your hands past.

  5. Lucianne Walkowicz says:

    Hey Lee– I enjoyed your article on Gl 581g. I’m an astronomer– I work on Kepler and in particular on the habitability of planets around M dwarfs, and your article was a very intelligent piece of coverage. I look forward to your posts this week– good timing given the upcoming Kepler data release!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Only his first day of guest-blogging, and I’m already hooked. Nice tap, Maggie.

  7. Aloisius says:

    If there was a cash bounty for discovering planets, I guarantee more would be found.

    Do you even get to name the planets you find?

    • Anonymous says:

      At the very least, a lot more would be reported.

      Planets right now are named in order of discovery with lowercase letters; for instance Upsilon Andromedae has planets Upsilon Andromedae b, c, d, and maybe e, in order of discovery. This matches how companion stars are named in multiple systems, except those get capital letters. The very first extrasolar planet, 51 Pegasi b, was called Bellerophon but they’ve shown up too quickly for proper names to be too useful.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I take part in the hunt for planets using the website planethunters.org. They are looking for regular people to help analyze the NASA’s Kepler spacecraft data, if anyone is interested. And I completely agree that once you see the difficulty and the amount of data that has to analyzed you gain a greater respect and understanding of where we are at in respect to finding planets and where we are about to go.

  9. Avi says:

    Interesting article. Is it possible to see the “dirty sheen” on a star that pulled in a planet?

    Also, anyone can help find potential planetary transits by playing the “game” over at http://www.planethunters.org. They will be getting the upcoming data release that Lucianne mentioned, and need all the help they can get classifying stars and detecting transits!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I thought most stars were part of binary or multiple systems, forming with companions, and so probably lack planets. Is this no longer thought to be the case?

  11. dainel says:

    The method used to find these planets finds planets many times bigger than Jupiter. We still can’t detect smaller sized planets.

    • AnthonyC says:

      It’s *easier* to detect larger planets, but we *can* detect smaller ones, it just takes more work, more time, more resources (mores money).

      For example, the smallest exosolar planet so far (that Wikipedia’s list of extrasolar planets is aware of) is Gliese 581e (yes, the same system as the planet from the recent stories), at just over twice the earth’s mass. Then again, it is apparently also very close to it’s star, which makes detection easier.

    • Michael Smith says:

      The method used to find these planets finds planets many times bigger than Jupiter. We still can’t detect smaller sized planets.

      We have a lot more data about moons of giant planets than we have about planets orbiting stars. All four of the gas giants in our solar system have usable moons. Three of them have giant, planet sized moons. There is arguably more usable real estate orbiting the gas giants in this solar system than there is freely orbiting the sun.

      Titan, for example, is the most habitable place we know off Earth.

  12. Zephyris says:

    Quite a good (and very relavent) video; 3D mapping of over a decade of data, 300 planetary systems and 50 million cubic light years in just over 2 minutes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPhyN3yVkiQ&hd=1

  13. speedreeder says:

    I agree with Daniel, the method used is being pushed to its maximum planet finding ability.
    I think the Kepler telescope will probably find quite a few of these “missing” planets.

  14. RebNachum says:

    Anon: “The very first extrasolar planet, 51 Pegasi b, was called *Bellerophon* [...]”


  15. belldl says:

    You forgot the fourth cause of not finding as many planets as we expect: Galactus.

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