The recently launched Gaia satellite can discover 21,000 exoplanets in the coming years. And if the mission is extended by another five years, it could even be 70,000. Researchers predict that.
Those are huge numbers. Certainly when you consider that discovering new planets is not Gaia's most important mission goal. The satellite - built by ESA and launched in December last year - is to determine the motion, physical characteristics and distance to the Earth and distance to other stars from around one billion celestial bodies (mainly stars) with unparalleled precision. The satellite can also detect planets. And by determining how stars 'wiggle' at the hands of the planet circling around it.
Researchers from Princeton University have now calculated that the satellite - despite the fact that discovering planets is only an important side issue for Gaia - can detect tens of thousands of planets. Those numbers are nice. But even more interesting are the types of planets that Gaia can detect. Many of the planets that Gaia is going to discover are currently difficult to detect or very rare. Consider, for example, Jupiter-sized planets circling around red dwarfs. It is estimated that there are only 25 to 50 of them in our Milky Way. And Gaia can find them.
"It's not just about the numbers," emphasizes researcher Michael Perryman. “Each of these planets will bring specific details and many will be very interesting in their own way. If you look at the planets that have been discovered to date, you can see that they occupy a specific part of the space. Gaia will not only discover a long list of planets, but also in an area that has not been thoroughly explored before. be positioned.