EXOPLANETS -  Planets outside of our Solar System - Exoplanets are "extrasolar planets"

Exoplanets are planets outside of our Solar System. Extrasolar - more to astronomy than meets the eye...

A unique branch of astronomy is the search for extra-solar planets - exoplanets. This takes more observation than viewing through a "normal" telescope.

An extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, is a planet which orbits a star other than our Sun, and therefore belongs to a planetary system other than the solar system.

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The first planets to be found around nearby stars had never been seen. Instead, astronomers discovered them indirectly, inferring the existence of an unseen companion through its effects on the star itself.

Initially, astronomers had only turned up huge planets that probably don't harbor life. However, later missions such as Terrestrial Planet Finder and its precursors searched for direct evidence of new planets as small as Earth.

Currently, there are hundreds of verified exoplanets circling distant stars. Many of these are similar in size to our earth and sun.

Besides the many missions and programs aimed at planet detection, current exoplanet research at Goddard includes transit spectroscopy, searches for planets around white dwarfs, research in to the nature of the habitable zone, and theoretical studies of planet formation. A number of the extrasolar planets detected so far exhibit a transit across their parent star as seen from Earth.

This search for the elusive exoplanet is not done with a traditional telescope, such as the Meade and/or Bausch & Lombe telescopes familiar to amateur and professional astronomers alike.