In our group meeting last week, Professor Johnson suggested we calculate how much it would cost to “buy” a planet. So we took a look at how much each detection method tends to cost, by noting its budget and how many planets it has found so far. For all the detection techniques--radial velocity, transits (ground and space based) and TTVs, microlensing, direct imaging--it was estimated that each planet found cost around $100,000.
Wait, $100,000?! For a planet? Why would you spend that much money just to find a planet?!
I don’t know about you, but that was my first reaction. Then I realized, with all the research I’ve been doing, that certainly Galileo and other astronomers of that period would be happy to pay $100,000 (or at least, its equivalent, having adjusted for inflation!) to detect an extrasolar planet. Planets were a big deal! In fact, the very suggestion that other inhabited planets existed got Giordano Bruno burned at the stake! So how have we gotten to this point, where just twenty years ago a new planet was huge news, and now it’s just an everyday event? Why should we be spending this much money on finding planets? Comment below with your thoughts and opinions on this matter, and a follow-up post is coming soon!