NASA has revealed that it surpassed 4,000 identified exoplanets in June. To celebrate, the agency has created a video that tracks the agency’s progress in identifying exoplanets from the first in 1992 to the 4,000th in 2019.
Despite our certainty that other exoplanets likely existed in the universe, it wasn’t until January 1992 that radio astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail made the first definitive detection of an exoplanet. Over the next 17 years, several new exoplanets were discovered. However, it wasn’t until the launch of the Kepler space telescope in March 2009 that the discovery of new exoplanets became an almost daily event.
The Kepler space telescope, named after astronomer Johannes Kepler was launched on March 7, 2009. It was expected to search the universe for Earth-size planets orbiting other stars for three and a half years. Nine years later, the telescope was still operational having boosted the number of identified exoplanets from less than 400 to over 3,500. With Kepler’s mission coming to an end in 2018, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) took up the mantle of discovering new worlds.
The video celebrating the spectacular milestone of discovering 4,000 exoplanets was created by using data from NASA’s Exoplanet Archive. It combines beautiful visuals and music to chronologically map the discovery of every exoplanet. The video was created by SYSTEM Sounds and published on the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) YouTube channel.