Astronomers have discovered 28 new planets outside of our solar system, increasing to 236 the number of known exoplanets, revealing that planets can exist around a broad spectrum of stellar types-from tiny, dim stars to giants.
"We added 12 percent to the total in the last year, and we're very proud of that," said one of the study team members Jason Wright of the University of California at Berkeley. "This provides new planetary systems so that we can study their properties as an ensemble."
The planets are among 37 new objects spotted within the past year. Seven of the objects are failed stars called brown dwarfs, with masses that dwarf the largest, Jupiter-sized planets but too small to sustain the nuclear reactions necessary for stellar ignition.
John Johnson of the University of California at Berkeley and his colleagues presented the findings here today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).
Astronomers don't directly spot extrasolar planets, but rather look for stellar wobbles caused by orbiting planets. The planet's size and distance from the parent star affect how strong or weak of a wobble, and more sophisticated techniques for measuring the stellar wobbles has led to an ever-lengthening list of such outer planets. Now they can detect wobbles of a meter per second compared with the 10-meter limit just 15 years ago.