What is an exoplanet?

Imagination and curiosity drive our activities in outer space.

Your students could be our future scientists, mathematicians, and astrophysicists. 
 
Below is a short collection of resources from the NASA library to help you fuel their imagination. This is a peek into the future. Once you create the context, this can be the subject of a lively classroom discussion:

“What are exoplanets?”

When we look at the night sky we see thousands of stars gleaming back at us. Planet Earth orbits around its star, our Sun. Eight planets form our Solar System.

This leads us to the question could those stars in the night sky have planets orbiting around them, forming their own solar system? The answer is yes, absolutely. These planets are called exoplanets (exo- a prefix that means external, from outside).

Recently, seven Earth-sized planets have been observed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope around a tiny, nearby, ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Here is a video from NASA titled TRAPPIST-1, “A Treasure Trove of Planets Found.”
 
 

How do scientists find exoplanets?

Scientists use space telescopes to measure a drop in light as each planet passes in front of a star. The video below discusses this and some of the history of the search for exoplanets. They also discuss what this means to us.
 
 

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