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Six bigger than Earth planets found orbiting nearby star in perfect synchrony

This illustration provided by the European Space Agency depicts what the exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 b could look like.   -  
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NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI), T. P. Greene (NASA Ames), T. Bell (BAERI), E. Ducrot (CEA), P. Lagage (CEA)/NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI), T. P. Greene (NASA Ames), T. Bell (BAERI), E. Ducrot (CEA), P. Lagage (CEA)


Astronomers have unearthed a unique solar system, wherein six planets orbit a bright neighboring star in flawless synchronized motion, resembling a majestic cosmic orchestra. This celestial arrangement has remained untouched by external influences since its inception billions of years ago.

The revelation of this in-sync system, disclosed on Wednesday, showcases a rare and preserved cosmic phenomenon that holds the potential to shed light on the formation processes of solar systems throughout the Milky Way galaxy. Situated 100 light-years away in the Coma Berenices constellation, this compact system stands as a frozen-in-time marvel, offering valuable insights into the mysteries of celestial evolution.

The discovery was made possible by a pair of planet-hunting satellites, including NASA’s Tess.

"This exoplanet system appears to be about 100 light years away. That's about 25 times further than the closest star system to us. If we wanted to travel to the closest star system using current technology, it would take about 70,000 years. So we're looking at 25 times further away than that," according to Dr Greg Brown, senior public astronomy officer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

The vast international research team describes the star system as a “rare fossil” that is essentially unchanged from its birth more than 4 billion years ago.

This star, designated HD 110067, may have even more planets.

The six found so far are roughly two to three times the size of Earth, but with densities closer to the gas giants in our own solar system.

Their orbits range from nine to 54 days, putting them closer to their star than Venus is to the sun and making them exceedingly hot.

As gas planets, they're believed to have solid cores made of rock, metal or ice, enveloped by thick layers of hydrogen, according to the scientists.

More observations are needed to determine what's in their atmospheres.

For the record, none of the planets are within the star’s so-called habitable zone, which means little if any likelihood of life, at least as we know it.

This solar system is unique because all six planets move similar to a perfectly synchronized symphony, scientists said.

The innermost planet completes three orbits for every two by its closest neighbour. It's the same for the second- and third-closest planets, and the third- and fourth-closest planets.

The two outermost planets complete an orbit in 41 and 54.7 days, resulting in four orbits for every three. The innermost planet, meanwhile, completes six orbits in exactly the time the outermost completes one.

"The reason why this planetary system is therefore interesting is that actually many planetary systems don't have these orbital resonances, despite the fact that they are somewhat stable. And that's because we think that over time, as the planets are evolving and the solar systems are changing, they get knocked out. Not literally whacking into one another, but getting slightly pushed away. And so we end up with a number of planetary systems out there which are close to being an orbital resonance, but few that are actually in these resonances," says Dr Brown.

All solar systems, including our own, are thought to have started out like this one, according to the scientists.

But it's estimated only 1-in-100 systems have retained that synchrony, and ours isn't one of them.

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