NASA's Exoplanet Archive Offers a Stunning Glimpse of 4,000 Distant Worlds

This resource is everything an alien world aficionado could ask for.

Over 4,000 planets are now officially known to exist outside our Solar System. This milestone, achieved in June, has been recorded by NASA’s amazing Exoplanet Archive.

Posted by NASA on Wednesday, the video above shows a representation of the entire night sky and the exoplanets discovered within it. The central band of our Milky Way Galaxy forms a giant U, as something circular does when it’s shown flat – that’s why when you see the trajectory of a spacecraft orbiting the Earth on one of those giant flat displays at Mission Control, it looks like it’s traveling in a big sine wave.

The version below shows a more localized region of the night sky.

Or there's this version that shows a more local region of the night sky

In both video clips, exoplanets detected by slight jiggles in the colors of their parent star (radial velocity) appear in pink, while those detected by slight dips in their parent star’s brightness (transit) are shown in purple. Exoplanets imaged directly appear in orange, while those detected by gravitationally magnifying the light of a background star (microlensing) are shown in green. The faster a planet orbits its parent star, the higher the accompanying tone.

The retired Kepler space telescope discovered about half of these first 4,000 exoplanets in just one region of the sky. NASA’s new TESS mission is on track to find even more, all over the sky, orbiting the brightest nearby stars.

Finding exoplanets helps us better understand not only the potential prevalence of life elsewhere in the universe but also how our Earth and Solar System were formed.

This week alone, seven new planets have been added: DS Tuc A b, DE CVn b, HIP 79098 AB b, Kepler-411 d and e, OGLE-2015-BLG-1670L b, and OGLE-2018-BLG-0596L b.

If images of these 4,000 exoplanets aren’t enough, NASA also offers an Astronomy Picture of the Day archive. More stars than you can shake a stick at.