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Archive for Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Solar system with at least 5 planets found

August 25, 2010

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Astronomers have spotted a solar system 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 Lovis of 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.

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