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The Search For Other Worlds Extrasolar Planets

Earths Beyond Earth: The Search for Other Worlds
In early 1990, thefirst extrasolar planet was detected, surprising everyone by its strangeness. More planets have now been discovered outside our solar system than in it. These planets present many great mysteries to the astronomical world.
Extrasolar planets are planets that exist outside our solar system; they are orbiting a star other than our Sun. So far, eighteen have been found, all of them defying well-established theories about planets and how they operate (Winters, 46). As Stephen Maran said, "The new discoveries remind us that ignorance is not just bliss, it is also a lack of imagination. The newfound planets show us not only that a solar system is not a rare commodity, but that ours may be plain vanilla." (73)
Finding extrasolar planets is both difficult and complicated. The average star, for instance, is one hundred million times brighter than any planet orbiting it (De Grasse Tyson, 87). "Picking out a planet against the glare of a star is like trying to spot a 100-watt light bulb next to a 100-billion-watt searchlight," says Michael Lemonick (54). Also, earth-size planets are too small to have any significant effect on their star, so they are almost impossible to detect (De Grasse Tyson, 88). There is, however , a way to find extrasolar planets without using direct sight: the Doppler Effect. When a star has a planet in its gravitational field, it makes the star appear as if it is "wobbling" by stretching the light waves and slightly changing the star's color (Maran, 75). A second method of finding a planet is to search through a disk of debris surrounding a star, such as Vega. Chances are that a planet will exist there (De Grasse Tyson, 87). Out of the detected planets, only a few have actually been "seen," being found by accident by either the Hubble Space Telescope or the Infrared Space Observatory (Lemonick, 53). In…

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