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Scientists discover solar system akin to our own
Posted On: Jul 26, 2012
Artist interpretation of the planet Kepler-30c is transiting one of the large starspots. Scientists used these spot-crossing events to show that the orbits of the three planets (colour lines) are aligned with the rotation of the star (curly white arrow). Image credit: Cristina Sanchis Ojeda.
Scientists have discovered the first exoplanetary system which has planets lined up in aligned orbits similar to those in our solar system.
Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Santa Cruz and other institutions have detected the first exoplanetary system, 10,000 light years away, with regularly aligned orbits similar to those in our solar system.
At the centre of this faraway system is Kepler-30, a star as bright and massive as the Sun.
After analysing data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, they discovered that the star much like the Sun rotates around a vertical axis and its three planets have orbits that are all in the same plane.
"In our solar system, the trajectory of the planets is parallel to the rotation of the Sun, which shows they probably formed from a spinning disc," says Roberto Sanchis-Ojeda, a physics graduate student at MIT who led the research effort.
"In this system, we show that the same thing happens," Sanchis-Ojeda said in a statement.
Their findings, published in the journal Nature, may help explain the origins of certain far-flung systems while shedding light on our own planetary neighbourhood.
By measuring the timing variations of planets as they transit the star, the team derived their respective orbital configurations, and found that all three planets are aligned along the same plane.
The overall planetary structure, Sanchis-Ojeda found, looks much like our solar system.
Most exoplanets discovered in recent years particularly the giants known as "hot Jupiters" inhabit far more eccentric orbits.
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