Two New Solar Systems discovered to have a planet like ours

Two New Solar Systems discovered to have a planet like ours

Kepler Space Telescope found two solar systems which have planets quite similar to Earth.

The prospect of finding planetary systems similar to our Milky Way has always been intriguing. Scientists have been trying to discover new unknown worlds with the possibility of supporting human life and this is not the first time a planet or an entire system has been discovered. In 2015, an international team of astronomers discovered a Solar System twin that has an orbiting planet similar to Jupiter and a star identical to the Sun. A few days back, the Kepler Space Telescope discovered two entire solar systems with planets which appear to have an uncanny resemblance with our system’s planets.

The most common way of detecting exoplanets is watching for brief drops in brightness as these objects pass in front of their host star. The Kepler Space Telescope spotted thousands of potential exoplanets using this ‘transit’ method. Surprisingly, one of them is not too far from earth. With a distance of about 160 Light years, this solar system is located near the constellation Sextant and has three planets, one of which is the same size as the Earth. The remaining two are just a little bigger. The other system has two larger planets (twice the size of Earth) orbiting a small red dwarf star. The planets are termed ‘Super-Earths’.

Scientists are now trying to observe the atmospheric properties of these planets using the new James Webb Space Telescope. However, given the proximity of the planets to their stars, they have extremely high temperatures (around 3480K and 3800K respectively) which make them unsuitable for life to exist. Spectrographs using the ESPRESSO instrument at the European Southern Observatory will be used to calculate the masses, densities, and other physical properties of these exoplanets. These planets have extremely short orbits because they are closer to their stars than Mercury is to the Sun.

The results were announced in a paper in the Monthly Notices of the Astronomical Society. The research was led by Spanish astrophysicists Javier de Cos of the University of Oviedo and Rafael Rebolo of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. They described their findings by saying,

“Until now, the Kepler mission has been the most successful at detecting exoplanets by the transit method. Since the beginning of 2014, Kepler has been on its second mission (K2), monitoring different fields near the ecliptic plane for around 80 days.”

The five planets were discovered on the K2 Mission of the Kepler II telescope when the original Kepler developed certain mechanical faults. The telescope measures the brief dips of light that happen when a planet passes in front of its star and allows scientists to use the details of those dips to work out what they might be like. There are plans to use artificial intelligence for further calculations and observations to collect data about the nature of the two Solar Systems.

This interesting discovery was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS). The first exoplanetary system is located near the star K2-239, characterized as a red dwarf star. The time taken for the three planets of the first Solar System to orbit the star is 5.2, 7.8, and 10.1 days, respectively. The second red dwarf star is named K2-240, has two planets twice the size our planet. Red dwarf stars are notorious for blasting strong radiation on the planets thus making them unsuitable for most life to exist. These planets have temperatures which are about half the temperature of our Sun.

The Kepler II is expected to run out of fuel in a few months and scientists are hoping to gather more data before a new satellite needs to be launched. Does any life exist on these planets? Are there more planets out there that have strikingly similar properties to Earth? Only time will tell. Megan Bedell, the Lead Author from the University of Chicago expressed his views in the following words:

“After two decades of hunting for exoplanets, we are finally beginning to see long-period gas giant planets similar to those in our own Solar System thanks to the long-term stability of planet-hunting instruments like HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher).”

Computer Scientist by qualification who loves to read, write, eat, and travel

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