Space & Time

extrasolar planet

Extrasolar planet (also called exoplanet), planet that orbits a star other than the Sun. The existence of extrasolar planets, many light-years from Earth, was confirmed in 1992 with the detection of three bodies circling a pulsar. The first planet revolving around a more sunlike star, 51 Pegasi, was reported in 1995. Over 200 stars with one or more planets are known. Current detection methods, based on the planets' gravitational effects on the stars they orbit, have revealed only planets much more massive than Earth; some are several times the size of Jupiter. A number of them have highly elliptical orbits, and many are closer to their stars than Mercury is to the Sun. These findings have raised questions regarding astronomers' ideas of how Earth's solar system formed and how typical it is.