Article by Bryan Braun
“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose… but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.”
Exoplanets are planets that have been discovered outside of our solar system. Ever since the first one was confirmed in 1992, hundreds of others have been discovered orbiting stars throughout our galaxy.
The first exoplanets discovered were gas giants, many being several times the size of Jupiter. Many of these planets were called “Hot Jupiters” because they orbited close to their host stars. Planets like these were the easiest ones to detect, giving a natural bias to the number of planets we found that matched these characteristics.
There are several methods for detecting exoplanets, most resulting from the slight dimming of a star as the planet passes in front of it or discerning the gravitational effects of planets on their stars. These detection methods, though crude, allow us to predict with reasonable accuracy the mass, size, and density of these planets. As detection methods continue to improve, more planets will continue to be detected.
Because our telescopes can only see a limited distance into space, all the exoplanets we’ve discovered reside in a tiny region which is only a fraction of our galaxy. We cannot see far enough to investigate most of our own galaxy, not to mention the billions of galaxies outside our own. By extrapolation of the data we have with reasonable estimates, the number of planets out there is practically incomprehensible.
But now for the burning question: What do these exoplanets tell us regarding evidences for life outside of earth?
If life is to exist in the universe, it is likely to exist on a planet like ours orbiting a star in what is referred to as the “habitable zone.” This zone is a region of space around the star where planets are likely to be the temperatures that can support life. Some exoplanets have already been confirmed to orbit their stars in this habitable zone. With new exoplanets being discovered each year, scientists hope to find more planetary candidates for life like our own.
“…if the fixed stars are the centers of similar systems [to our solar system], they will all be constructed according to a similar design and subject to the dominion of One.”.”
- Isaac Newton, Principia
Personal Notes: We are living in an incredible time where science is confirming much of what we have long believed to be true; that there is no end to the works of God; that the heavens are innumerable to man; that we are not alone. These discoveries are evidences to me that science is not a threat to religion; rather, it confirms the truths that God has always taught to mankind through His inspired servants.