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From zero to 5,000 – music and visuals express 30 years of exoplanet discoveries

Until three decades ago, scientist were unsure if planets – Earth-like and otherwise – were rare in the Universe. But since the first confirmed exoplanets, or planets outside our Solar System, were detected in 1992, it’s become increasingly clear that our universe is teeming, with an estimated average of between one to two planets per star. And, perhaps even more startling, potentially life-bearing planets such as Earth are no great rarity, with a fifth of Sun-like stars estimated to have an Earth-sized planet in their ‘habitable zones’.

This short video from NASA celebrates the discovery of the 5,000th confirmed exoplanet, which occurred on 21 March 2022. Starting with a still shot of our celestial neighbourhood, the video expresses the increasing discovery of exoplanets from 1991 to today. The audiovisualisation progresses year by year, with each new circle in the sky indicating the relative orbit size of every newly discovered planet. Varying colours signify how each planet was discovered, and a musical tone represents the length of the planet’s orbital period around their star. The result is an awe-inspiring glimpse into our corner of the Universe that will surely grow ever more expansive, rich and intricate as NASA’s James Webb Telescope begins to peer further into the cosmos than ever before. You can view this video in 360° here.

25 July 2022

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