X-Planets: Discovering Other Earths — a full-dome show now playing in the Burke Baker Planetarium — introduces viewers to the most famous of the newly discovered exoplanets. The show first zooms the exoplanet’s star out of the star field before taking a closer look at the alien world, followed by an artist’s conception of how the planet’s surface might look.
Finding exoplanets is perhaps the hottest topic in astronomy, with discoveries making the news daily. For instance, just this fall we discovered a planet orbiting our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, only 4.4 light years away. The planet’s official name is Alpha Centauri Bb, indicating that it orbits one of the two major stars in the Alpha Centauri system. The planet is nearly the size of Earth but lies very close to its parent star, well inside the habitable zone where liquid water could exist.
Although the planet may be too hot for life to survive on its surface, the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B has ignited hope that this star could have a whole system of rocky worlds. Interstellar distances are so great that we need a nearby planet for any possible interstellar probe.
Another unlikely exoplanet made news this fall. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, has identified an exoplanet that fits the description of 27 light years away. Indeed, we have found so many exoplanets that we can match at least one with a famous comic book description of a fictitious alien world.
Current X-planet news is shown on the planetarium dome for visitors attending The X-Planets show. The show explores exoplanets like HD28185b, the first planet in the habitable zone of a star, and Corot 7b, the first rocky exoplanet.
For more information, including showtimes and online ticket purchasing, click here.