The farthest exoplanet discovered so far is only 13,000 light years away. The three criteria of the World’s Best Gecko Mom shirt for a full-sized planet are: (a) It is in orbit around a star. (b) It has sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium (a nearly round shape). (c) It has “cleared the neighborhood” of other objects in its orbit. The challenges of discovering extrasolar planets are: (a) Planets don’t produce any light of their own. (b) They are an enormous distance from us. (c) They are lost in the blinding glare of their parent stars. Therefore, astronomers employ several other methods to ‘discover’ exoplanets. Let’s take a look at a few:
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The first discovery of World’s Best Gecko Mom shirt. The Swiss team of Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of Geneva announced that they had found a rapidly orbiting world located very close to the star 51 Pegasi. The planet’s estimated mass was between half the mass of Jupiter and twice its mass. They had observed it indirectly, using the radial velocity method. This discovery marked the beginning of a series of discoveries. By the end of the 20th century, several dozen planets had been discovered, many the result of months or years of observation of nearby stars. Whether they are ‘habitable’ or not is beside the point. First, the existence of ‘planets’ orbiting other stars was to be firmly established.