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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Astronomers discover solar system with at least 5 planets

    GARCHING, Germany — Astronomers have spotted a solar system just 127 light-years from earth with at least five planets orbiting a star, the biggest system found since exoplanetary research began, the European Southern Observatory said Tuesday.

    Our own solar system contains eight planets.

    But none of the planets orbiting HD 10180, a sun-like star in the constellation Hydrus, is likely to harbor life. They are all either too big or searingly hot on the surface.

    ESO, which has telescopes in Chile, announced the finding from its head office at Garching, a Munich suburb.

    Scientists had computed five planets were in orbit round the star from gravitational wobbles and picked up signs that would indicate two more are “”probably”” in their company.

    Christophe Lovisof the University of Geneva, who led the team, said the discovery took exoplanetary studies to a new level. The group used a special instrument at La Silla in Chile to observe the star.

    The five strongest wobbles were caused by stars with 13 to 25 times the mass of earth, a class similar to our Neptune. Additional movements suggested a sixth planet, the mass of Saturn, in a far orbit and a seventh, 1.4 times the mass of earth, close in.

    If the last planet is confirmed, it will be the smallest exoplanet ever discovered. But the rocky planet seems to whiz round its star in the equivalent of 1.18 earth days per orbit, indicating it is far too close to the star’s heat to ever evolve any life form.

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