What is an exoplanet?
Exoplanets are planets that revolve around other stars, they are planets in different solar systems to ours. We refer to them as exoplanets. Planets in our solar system such as Earth, Mars, Jupiter that revolve around our sun are referred to as planets.
Because of the bright glare of stars that exoplanets orbit, it is very hard to see exoplanets with telescopes. To find exoplanets astronomers have used planet-hunting equipment such as TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). In the last few decades thousands of exoplanets have been discovered.
Recently scientists have discovered three more exoplanets called TOI-2337b, TOI-4329b, and TOI-2669b. The exoplanets are referenced with TOI and a number because TOI stands for Tess Object of Interest’.
What can these other solar systems teach us?
All of the stars are dying in these other solar systems. The observation is that the exoplanets in these other solar systems are doomed.
The three recently discovered exoplanets have something in common. They have some of the shortest orbit periods ever found; they orbit around sub-giant or giant stars. All of the recently discovered planets are gas giants, similar to Jupiter in our Solar System. They will eventually spiral into their stars (similar to our sun) which will engulf them.
Predicting the end of humanity or just a history lesson about the cosmos?
The stars these exoplanets orbit around are believed to have expanded into sub-giant or giant stars, leading scientists to believe that ‘our own Sun will one day leave the main sequence and begin to expand into a red subgiant and will likely engulf Earth.’ That’s not expected to happen for a few billion years; by then humanity may already be extinct or settled on other planets.
As all of these newly observed exoplanets are in a death spiral orbit towards their stars are gas-like planets similar to Jupiter.
Using the James Webb Space Telescope astronomers may be able to find out whether the presence or lack of water vapour and CO2 in a planet’s atmosphere influences how planets orbit. Are all planets doomed to eventually orbit towards their star, or does water vapour and CO2 in a planet’s atmosphere make a difference?
Looking on the bright side, leading scientist Samuel Grunblatt a postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of Natural History and the Flatiron Institute states ‘“These discoveries are crucial to understanding a new frontier in exoplanet studies: how planetary systems evolve over time,”
Rather than thinking of these observations as a warning for how the our solar system will end, people should instead think of the discovery as ‘planetary archaeology.’