August 25, 2010

Another solar system discovered

TECHNOLOGY - Scientists have discovered a solar system similar to our own approx. 100 lightyears away with 7 or more planets orbiting the star. The newly discovered solar system has at least 1 planet which is roughly the size of Earth and depending on its distance from the star could support life.

Its the richest planetary system discovered so far and is part of a growing body of evidence that our solar system is NOT unique and that there is actually a lot of solar systems like our own.

Our solar system has 8 planets + 5 dwarf planets. The inner planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, plus the two gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, plus the two outermost planets, Uranus and Neptune. Pluto used to be considered a planet, but now has been given the term "dwarf planet" because of the discovery of several other dwarf planets in our solar system which scientists couldn't agree whether they were actually planets by definition. Our solar system has 5 dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris.

In the newly discovered solar system most of the planets are quite large, but they've already found one which is approx. 1.3 to 1.4 times the size of Earth. It is far enough away from the star that if it doesn't support life already it could certainly be terraformed to support life in the future.

Scientists have catalogued 450 new planets in the past 15 years, usually they're gas giants similar to Jupiter or Saturn. Smaller planets and especially dwarf planets are more difficult to spot because of the amount of light given off by their parent stars.

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