In the early 2000s, data about extra solar planets was trickling in at dial-up modem speed.
As of right now May, 2019, we have data on l over 4’000 planets. Exoplanet are detected using a handful of methods. One way, called the transit method, is the best way to find and learn about most of them.
When a planet crosses the path (transits) between us and a star, the amount of light reaching us dips down giving us numbers to calculate our how big that planet is. Some of that light travels through the exoplanet’s atmosphere and reveals information about the distant world.
So what is the information telling us? It’s saying that most stars that we’re analyzing have planets in orbit around them for one. Two, most of our sensors are picking up very large planets, way bigger than Jupiter.
A lot of the smaller planets aren’t picked up by our sensors. Sensor upgrades to detect more small Earth like rocky world are in the works. A kick-ass space telescope to replace Hubble is less than two years away from launch is one of the planned upgrades.
But hey, we’re not going to wait around for everything to be perfect. We have data loaded about alien atmospheres right here, right now. Let’s get to work.