Record Breaking Solar System Found!

Astronomers have located a solar system, HD 10180, with seven confirmed and possibly up to nine planets. If true, this would make it more complex than our own solar system, which has only eight planets, ever since Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet.

Full story here.

Bear in mind, finding planets is not easy. The most common methods are to measure the 'wobbles' of the parent star, which indicate the star is being affected by the gravity of orbiting planets. The Kepler sattelite uses an axtremely precise photometer to measure a star's brightness, noting when the brightness of the star decreases. This decrease could indicate the transit of a planet.

Each method is powerful, but some small planets may evade detection by either. Very small planets may not pull on their parent star enough to be detected, or the light drop by a transit may simply be too unmeasurable. It is therefore possible, even likely, that there are many more exoplanets out there that our instruments cannot detect.

Beyond planets, if our own solar system is any guide, there will be swarms of asteroids and comets orbiting these alien suns. Many exoplantets likely have moons. If some of these moons are large enough, they may be able to retain a thick atmosphere, like Saturn's Titan.

What does all this mean for us? It means that our universe is a far more complicated and wonderful place than we once thought.

It also means there are more nooks and crannies for life to be lurking.

1 Response

  1. Helmut Albrecht
    Is Simulation Curriculum, the maker of Starry Night, updating their siftware on a regular basis to reflect "findings" like HD10180?How can I make sure that I get this updates for my Starry Night Small Dome version?

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