A team of astronomers has located over 100 celestial bodies that could very well be previously unknown exoplanets.
One is even kind of close to home, orbiting a star that is a mere 8.1 light years from here.
A University of Hertfordshire press release notes, "Gliese 411b is a hot super-Earth with a rocky surface located in the fourth nearest star system to the Sun, making it the third nearest planetary system to the Sun. The significance of its discovery demonstrates that virtually all the nearest stars to the Sun have planets orbiting them. Planets that could be like Earth."
See iconic moments in space exploration
8 iconic moments in space exploration history
8 iconic moments in space exploration history
The Soviet Union launched the first satellite into space on October 4, 1957. Sputnik is often considered to be the first victory of the infamous Space Race between the United States and the U.S.S.R. While the U.S. launched its first satellite less than a year later, the race was far from over. This competition was part of what led President John F. Kennedy to announce a new national goal in 1961: Send an American safely to the moon by the end of the decade.
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The first man in space
Yuri Gagarin was the first man to go into space, sent there by the U.S.S.R. in April of 1961. Two monkeys named Able and Baker, who were sent into space by the U.S. in 1959, had previously been the first creatures to survive a space flight, though Able died during an operation afterward. While the U.S. had this honor, it wasn't going to be outdone by the U.S.S.R. It sent astronaut Alan Shepard into space about a month after Gagarin's trip.
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The first woman in space
Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to go into space on June 16, 1963. Aboard the Russian spacecraft Vostok 6, she orbited the Earth 48 times and returned, although there are reports she was injured upon landing, according to the BBC. She married another space explorer Andrian Nikolayev, and their child Elena became an interest to scientists who had never before been able to study the offspring of two individuals who had both been exposed to space travel.
Construction of the International Space Station (ISS) began in 1998, and it is currently the largest artificial object within the Earth's orbit, allowing it to sometimes be seen from Earth. The station and satellite is a home for many different research projects, according to Space.com. It also lets us have a constant presence in space, where at least three people are manning the station at all times, and the number of occupants can reach as high as 10.
The Mars exploration rovers were launched in 2003 with the goal of allowing us to better understand the history of water on Mars. Spirit, the first of the Mars rovers, made its last communication in 2010, while Curiosity, which landed in 2012, is currently still in communication with NASA. According to the Smithsonian, these rovers have brought about one of the most significant events in space exploration of the 21st century: the discovery that Mars was once a wet world with plenty of water, and the later discovery that liquid water still flows on the planet today.
(Photo via REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Handout)
The moon landing
Of course, no list on space exploration can be complete without a mention of one of the United States' — and mankind's — greatest achievements: the moon landing. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, became the first manned lunar landing mission. Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon, and as he did so, he uttered the famous line, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." You can still watch the footage of the moon landing on YouTube in a video that has over 13 million views.
(Photo by NASA via Reuters)
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The international group made the observations by utilizing the radial velocity method.
The Carnegie Institution for Science notes that the means, "is one of the most successful techniques for finding and confirming planets. It takes advantage of the fact that in addition to a planet being influenced by the gravity of the star it orbits, the planet's gravity also affects the star. Astronomers are able to use sophisticated tools to detect the tiny wobble the planet induces as its gravity tugs on the star."
They applied it to decades of data gathered by HIRES, a spectrometer affixed to the Keck-1 telescope at W.M. Keck Observatory.
In addition to releasing their findings, the team publicized a staggering amount of the information the apparatus has collected over the years.