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'We're in golden age of discovery'

india Updated: Jun 17, 2011 11:46 IST

Leading experts have explained how far the field of exoplanet detection has advanced since the first confirmed detection in the early ‘90s.

Now that more than 550 exoplanets have been detected, and with increasingly frequent detections being announced by global teams working with space- and ground-based telescopes, the speakers explained how we have entered a golden age of discovery.

Chaired by the President of IOP, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the speakers took the audience through the history of exoplanet detection, and explained the techniques being used to maximize our understanding of planets beyond our solar system.

“How exciting it is to think that there are probably more exoplanets than there are stars in our night sky,” said Burnell.

The field has progressed from early identification of gas giants, dubbed ‘hot Jupiters’, to slightly smaller but still uninhabitable ‘Neptunes’, and now ‘super Earths’; planets with a mass only five to ten times that of our Earth’s.

The meeting was held at the Institute of Physics (IOP) in partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).