This month is the twentieth anniversary of the discovery of exoplanets, which are really just planets that are not in our solar system. (Frankly, I dislike the term exoplanet. It is so solarcentric.)
When you think about it, the discovery of planets outside our solar system (we need a word for that) is a special thing. On a graph of how expected and mundane a scientific discovery is vs. how exciting a scientific discovery is, these planets are distant outliers.
For years astronomers and cosmologists and others assumed that stars would generally have planets around them, or at least, this would often be the case. This is all part of the famous Drake Equation, best stated by Carl Sagan using the word “Billions” (with two b’s) over and over again. Like this.
OK, he didn’t really use “Billions” a bunch of times. But he might have.
Anyway, Nature.com has a nice set of infographics on the topic, one of which I’ve posted above. The rest are here.