Exoplanets Explained


What is an exoplanet?
Most simply, it is a planet that orbits a star other than our own.

How are exoplanets discovered?
The Keck Observatory is used by a number of astronomers who are known as the “Planet Hunters.” With the most advanced equipment currently available, they use the Keck telescopes to discover previously unknown planets in orbit around other stars in our galaxy.

What do exoplanets look like?
They take many forms. Some are very large and gaseous, others can be small and dense. These exoplanets are orbiting stars hundreds of lightyears from our own.

Is there life on these exoplanets?
Perhaps. The exoplanet program is an ongoing quest, always propelled by the hope of discovering planets that can support life. These rare worlds are called “Goldilocks” exoplanets, and thus far only one of them has been discovered that is a bona fide candidate. That discovery, we are proud to say, was made by an astronomer who uses Keck Observatory to conduct his search.

What is a “Goldilocks” exoplanet?
It is a world that is positioned at precisely the right distance from the star it orbits so that it can be warm enough to have liquid water, but not so hot that all the water boils away. The simple fact of possessing liquid H2O gives a planet the possibility that it might support life as we know it.

Why is Keck offering naming rights to exoplanets?
The Keck Exoplanet Registry was created both as a catalog of newly discovered planets, and as a development program for the Observatory. The funds that are raised by these naming rights to planets in the Keck Exoplanet Registry are used directly for Keck’s telescope instrumentation to improve exoplanet hunting.

Where is this registry?
The Keck Exoplanet Registry is available on the Internet, while it is physically maintained at the Keck Observatory headquarters in Waimea. Though the naming of your exoplanet is not officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union, it is recognized by the number one observatory in the world and the name you give is accepted by the astronomer(s) who discovered the planet(s).