Since the early 1990's the existence of more than 100 extrasolar planets or exoplanets, i.e., planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, has been documented. Most of these have been large gaseous planets with masses just less than to many times more than Jupiter's mass. However, the Kepler Mission has a photometer designed to collect data for many years on the light output from a star. This data can then be analyzed for indications of the existence of smaller, Earth-size, exoplanets. The launch of the Kepler Mission is planned for 2006.
There are three primary methods that can be used by astronomers to locate exoplanets.
The simulation provided here uses photometry (or measuring the decrease of the light coming from a star as a planet transits across its face) to search for potentially habitable exoplanets.
Note Before Executing The Exoplanet Simulation Below
FINDING EXOPLANETS - A SIMULATION
More Information at Interactive Science Activities on the Web
Created and maintained by: Richard L. Bowman (2002-4) [last updated: 18-Apr-04]