The Kepler mission has been finding proof of exoplanets since it’s launch in 2009.
With over 1000 exoplanets confirmed, and another 3500 on the waiting list for conformation, the Kepler spacescraft has been a huge success.
However, doesn’t mean it was the first to find exoplanets, and today we have proof that almost 100 years ago, the first exoplanet was discovered, although we use that term sparingly.
The plate below is of van Maanen’s star, a white dwarf stellar remnant that’s only 14.4 light wears from our sol system. Even thou it’s quite close it can’t be seen with the naked eye, as the object is very dim. Adriaan van Maanen discovered this start in 1917, and this plate has remained in the archives until now, when University College London researcher Jay Farihi requested the plate for his own research on van Maanen’s star.
Upon studying the plate, Farihi discovered the light waves showed distant planet, 1 or more circling the white dwarf. While at the time in 1917, search for exoplanets was thought impossible, no one would have known to look for the variations in light to find exoplanets, even though the light was already recorded. Until this discovery the earliest recorded exoplanet discovery was from 1990. Looks like we’ll have to write our scientific history, and thank Mr. Farihi for bringing this discovery to light.