Artist's rendering of potentially habitable exoplanets. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)

Discovery Alert: A Record Haul -- Planet Count Hits 4,000

NEWS | June 13, 2019

Planets: NASA's planet counter ticked up to 4,000, then passed it by three, with 31 new discoveries.

Date: June 13, 2019

What's new: NASA's Exoplanet Archive announces 31 newly confirmed exoplanets – planets beyond our solar system – discovered by ground and space-based telescopes. Five were detected by the recently launched TESS space telescope.

They push the official planet count past the 4,000 mark for the first time. And this record-breaking haul spans a range of weird worlds: rocky planets in Earth's size range, "super Earths" that are larger than Earth but smaller then Neptune, and huge gas giants 14 times more weighty than Jupiter.

They include:

  • A planet almost exactly as big around as Earth, called EPIC 201833600 c, orbiting a star some 840 light-years away.
  • An entirely new planetary system with at least three planets, L 98-59 b, c and d, in Earth's size range, some 34 light-years distant, that are among the TESS discoveries.
  • A hefty gas giant with the "weight," or mass, of 14 Jupiters, called NSVS 14256825 b, that's more than 2,700 light-years away.

Details: Along with TESS, the instruments astronomers used to find these new worlds include the Kepler space telescope, recently decommissioned after nine years in space. Twenty of the new planets were found in data from Kepler, including 19 from its second mission, called K2. One was found using various ground-based instruments to measure variations in eclipsing timing by a method called photometry. Others include:

  • The Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on the European Space Observatory's Very Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal, Chile. It found PDS 70 c, a planet more than 10 times the mass of Jupiter about 370 light-years away.
  • The CARMENES spectrograph on the 3.5-meter telescope at Calar Alto, Spain, used to find three of the planets. HD 180617 b is about 12 times the mass of Earth and 19 light-years away. LSPM J2116+0234 b is 13 times Earth's mass and 55 light-years distant. And Gl 49 b is about three times the mass of Earth and 32 light years away.
  • The Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) survey of ground-based instruments, which discovered KELT 23 A b, a planet about 15 times as big around as Earth and some 409 light-years away.

Congratulations to NASA's Exoplanet Archive!