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More than 5,000 worlds exist beyond our solar system. There could be billions more

Updated: Apr 5, 2022


(CNN)As humans, we've always had a connection with the stars and the moon. Myriad discoveries this week have showcased the longevity of that relationship.

For starters, archaeologists found an ancient artificial lake in the Mediterranean. Certain features of the pool aligned with constellations, the team learned, and its horizontal surface served as a mirror for the movements of celestial bodies.

Two and a half millennia after that reflecting pool was built, Apollo 17 astronauts landed on one of those heavenly objects -- the moon -- and brought back samples. One sealed tube from the 1972 mission was just opened. It could inform the way humans explore the lunar surface when astronauts return this decade.

And this weekend, the Solar Orbiter mission makes its closest flyby of the sun, capturing images that could reveal some of the greatest mysteries of the star we've yet to solve.

Our quest to understand the cosmos is never-ending. It's enough to inspire one to write a space age love song.

Scientists were just beginning to discover planets that orbited stars beyond our sun, called exoplanets, in the 1990s.

Now, NASA has confirmed that we know of more than 5,000 worlds outside of our solar system. It's a groundbreaking moment for the fairly young field of exoplanet science -- and experts estimate that there are likely billions of exoplanets waiting to be found.

Separately, for the first time, astronomers witnessed the aftermath of a giant collision between celestial objects around a nearby star, which may have been baby planets in the making. Whoa.

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