The 10 biggest exoplanet discoveries of 2021

The place that humans know most intimately in all the universe is a rocky planet called Earth. It makes sense, then, that humans are existentially driven to imagine what other such celestial bodies may be like. The scientific curiosity about what planets exist beyond the sun’s neighborhood is supported by several missions, like NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and its Kepler spacecraft. 

The study of exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system, helps address questions about our place in the solar system and in the universe. For example, learning about massive gas giants can boost our understanding about how Jupiter, one of Earth’s major shields from cosmic strikes, got to be where it is now located. Searching for rocky planets in habitable zones around their distinct parent stars highlights the rarity and preciousness of our planet. And discovering what is possible out there certainly inspires our imaginations.