An artist's impression of a Jupiter-sized planet transiting in front of its parent star (Image: NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI))
The last time we did a story on extrasolar planets (or exoplanets) in October, 2009, there had been 374 planets outside our solar system discovered. As of June 28, 2010 that number had risen to 464. The numbers look set to get a further boost thanks to a new technique that allows planets even down to the mass of the Earth to be detected with relatively small diameter telescopes. For the first time, using the technique known as Transit Timing Variation (TTV), a team of astronomers from Germany, Bulgaria and Poland have discovered an exotic extrasolar planet with 15 times the mass of Earth in the system WASP-3, 700 light years from the Sun in the constellation of Lyra.