Exoplanets were initially controversial | Sara Seager and Lex Fridman | Summary and Q&A

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August 22, 2020
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Exoplanets were initially controversial | Sara Seager and Lex Fridman

TL;DR

Scientists have gone from skepticism to studying the atmospheres of exoplanets, thanks to advancements in technology and the use of computer software for data analysis.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How do scientists detect gases on exoplanets from a distance?

Scientists use sensitive detectors that monitor a star's brightness over time, looking for drops in brightness that indicate a planet passing in front of the star. They can study the star's spectrum and analyze the changes to detect the presence of gases.

Q: How many exoplanets have been discovered so far?

There are thousands of known exoplanets, and the number continues to increase as more discoveries are made. The advancements in technology and data analysis methods have contributed to identifying these planets.

Q: What role did computers play in the discovery of exoplanets?

Computers have been essential in processing large amounts of data and analyzing the changes in star brightness. They allow scientists to search for transiting planets by examining thousands or even millions of stars simultaneously, a task that would be impossible to do manually.

Q: How is the data from exoplanet missions made available to the public?

The data from exoplanet missions, such as the MIT-led NASA mission TESS, is made public as soon as possible. This allows data scientists and researchers to analyze the data and potentially make new discoveries. Platforms like planethunters.org enable crowdsourcing of data analysis to involve more people in the search for exoplanets.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Exoplanets are planets that orbit stars other than our Sun, and there are thousands of known exoplanets.

  • The discovery of exoplanets started in the mid-1990s and was initially met with skepticism due to the close proximity of the first exoplanet to its star.

  • Advancements in technology, such as sensitive detectors and computer software, have played a crucial role in detecting and studying exoplanets.

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