Astronomers Uncover Rare Family of Six Planets 100 Light Years from Earth
CNN has reported that astronomers have made an exciting new discovery using two different exoplanet detection satellites. After detecting recurring dips in the brightness of the star HD110067, they confirmed the presence of a rare system of six exoplanets located 100 light years from Earth.
The six exoplanets are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune and belong to a poorly understood class called subneptunes. They are located in the Coma Berenices constellation in the northern sky, orbiting a bright sun-like star. What makes this discovery particularly remarkable is that these planets are found to orbit in a perfectly synchronized celestial dance known as orbital resonance.
A recent study published in the journal Nature reveals the discernible patterns created as the planets complete their orbits and exert gravitational forces on each other. This harmonic rhythm creates a resonant chain, allowing the six planets to align every few orbits. According to the study, this pristine configuration has remained unchanged for over a billion years, providing valuable insights into the evolution of planets and the origin of sub-Neptunes in our galaxy.
The system was first detected in 2020 by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). However, it was not until the European Space Agency’s ExOPlanet characterizing satellite, or Cheops, was used that astronomers were able to fully understand the orbital periods and rhythmic resonance of the six exoplanets. The satellites revealed that these planets likely have average temperatures ranging from 166.7 to 526.7 degrees Celsius, similar to those of Mercury and Venus.
These findings are important because they offer a glimpse into building blocks of planetary systems and their evolution. Planets initially form in resonance around stars, but events such as gravitational influences, passing stars, or collisions can disturb this harmony. Astronomers believe that only about one percent of all systems remain in resonance, making the discovery of HD110067’s planetary system an exceptional find.
Additionally, the system is an important target for future study as it could offer insights into the formation and composition of sub-Neptunes. The planetary system is bright and observable, making it an ideal target for further investigations, including potential studies of the planets’ atmospheres using the James Webb Space Telescope.
The discovery of this rare planetary system brings us one step closer to unlocking the secrets of planet formation and understanding the origins of sub-Neptunes in our galaxy.