DAVID DUCROS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID DUCROS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Exoplanet and parent star. Artwork of an alien planet (upper left) orbiting its parent star (centre, with dust ring). Many such exoplanets (or extrasolar planets) have now been detected, usually by the faint dimming of the star as the planet passes in front of it as seen from Earth. As of late 2011, nearly 700 alien planets have been detected, in over 500 planetary systems, with many hundreds more not yet confirmed. Around 50 may be capable of supporting life.
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