Good news for all fans of extraterrestrial life: A group of astronomers has discovered more than 100 new exoplanets using 20 years of data from Hawaii’s Keck Observatory. Exoplanets orbit stars outside our solar system and—because they’re so far away and dark (in comparison to the stars they orbit)—they can be hard to find.
The results, published in the Astronomical Journal, were obtained by using something called the “radial velocity” method, which looks at how an exoplanet’s gravity causes the associated star to wobble. In order to measure this, you have to have years worth of observation data, and a super sensitive telescope.
One of their most exciting findings is a planet a mere 8.1 light years away, which orbits around the fourth-closest star to the Sun, called GJ411. Unfortunately the planet’s probably too hot to be inhabitable, but it doesn’t mean we can’t get excited anyway.
It’s unclear if there’s alien life on any of these planets, or if any could make a suitable home once we inevitably ruin this one. (JK—they’re really far away. But still, it’s good info to have.)
Even cooler, they’re letting the public—or really smart members of the public anyway—help weed through the numbers they’ve collected. They’ve shared their dataset with open source software and instructions for how to look for new planets from the comfort of your own home/office/survival bunker. So, let’s get on that, people. Time’s a wastin’.