Professor: OK. We’ve been discussing the planets in our solar system and how some of the ones farthest from the sun were discovered.
Well, today I’d like to turn to what are called exoplanets and how researchers detect them. Maria?
Student: Exoplanets are planets that orbit around a star other than our Sun, right?
They are not in our solar system.
Professor: Right. They have different...what are called host stars.
And the study of exoplanets have been getting more and more exciting, hundreds of them have been discovered so far.
This is quite remarkable in view of the fact that the discovery of the first exoplanet was confirmed only in the mid-1990s.
Now we’re finding new ones every few weeks or so.
Student: So, uh, exactly why are we interested in these exoplanets anyway? Is it to see if there’s life on them?
Because it seems to me like the only exoplanets we ever hear about are gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn that couldn’t possibly support carbon-based life.
Professor: OK.Well, let’s talk about that. First, as for discovering life. Well, I think that sort of discovery is pretty far in the future, but it is an eventual goal.
For now, the focus is on locating planets within a host star’s so-called habitable zone, a zone that’s a certain distance from its star because only planets within this zone could conceivably support carbon-based life.