From the Academy
Japanese-american Frontiers Of Science Symposium
* Space Science Division, MS 245-3, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035; Astronomy Department, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94709; and § Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Ookayama, Megro-ku, Tokyo 152, Japan
The first known extrasolar planet in orbit around a Sun-like star was discovered in 1995. This object, as well as over two dozen subsequently detected extrasolar planets, were all identified by observing periodic variations of the Doppler shift of light emitted by the stars to which they are bound. All of these extrasolar planets are more massive than Saturn is, and most are more massive than Jupiter. All orbit closer to their stars than do the giant planets in our Solar System, and most of those that do not orbit closer to their star than Mercury is to the Sun travel on highly elliptical paths. Prevailing theories of star and planet formation, which are based on observations of the Solar System and of young stars and their environments, predict that planets should form in orbit about most single stars. However, these models require some modifications to explain the properties of the observed extrasolar planetary systems.
Source: Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, November 7, 2000, vol. 97, no. 23, 12405-12406