The search for planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, is one of the most exciting fields in astronomy today. This work is largely being carried out by the Kepler Space Telescope, which discovered its 1000th confirmed exoplanet earlier this year with over 4,000 candidates for other possible worlds beyond our solar system. A study just published in The Astrophysical Journal has revealed that scientists are piecing together data to give them a general picture of night and day and even basic weather patterns on some of these worlds.
The future of exoplanet discovery looks bright. The European Southern Observatory will begin looking for planets transiting around bright stars in a few years and the Evryscope is under construction. When completed it will be able to take a continuous movie of the night sky. The James Webb Space Telescope will be the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope. It will be able to spot even more exoplanets and determine their atmospheric composition. From Galileo’s first observations with a crude telescope to spotting planets around other stars. We have come a long way in astronomy in a few hundred years. Over the next decade, we will get a more complete picture of how unique or common our own home world is. Now someone just needs to invent warp drive, so we can get to these planets in a reasonable amount of time.
Thanks to Marcio Alaor BMG for showing me this story!