Astronomers Discover Many-planet System

LA SILLA, Chile, Aug. 24 (UPI) — European astronomers say they’ve discovered a planetary system with at least five and possibly seven planets, the most yet seen outside our own solar system.

Scientists of the European Southern Observatory using a telescope at La Silla, Chile, found the planets orbiting a sun-like star 127 light years from earth, an ESO release said Tuesday.

“We have found what is most likely the system with the most planets yet discovered,” Christophe Lovis, lead author of the paper reporting the result, said. “This remarkable discovery also highlights the fact that we are now entering a new era in exoplanet research: the study of complex planetary systems and not just of individual planets.”

The astronomers measured tiny oscillating movements of the star caused by the complex gravitational attractions from five or more planets. The five strongest signals correspond to planets with masses similar to Neptune orbiting the star with periods ranging from about 6 to 600 days.

“We also have good reasons to believe that two other planets are present,” says Lovis.

One is suspected to be a Saturn-like planet orbiting in 2200 days. The other is thought to be the least massive exoplanet ever discovered, with a mass of about 1.4 times that of the Earth.

It is very close to its host star, at just 2 percent of the Earth-sun distance, ESO scientists say.

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Categorized | Other, Solar
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