NASA telescope finds new planetary system with six planets
Astronomers have discovered a new planetary system with six planets, many of which are unlike any spotted before, findings published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature said.
The planets are notable primarily because most are small and orbiting very quickly around their sun - with orbits of just 50 days or less, scientists said. Five of the planets would fit within the orbit of Mercury in our solar system, with a sixth located further away from its sun, dpa reported.
Three of the planets are unlike any in the Earth's solar system, with two larger planets similar to Neptune and Uranus, astronomer Jonathan Fortney said.
The system orbiting a star named Kepler-11 was spotted by NASA's planet-hunting telescope, Kepler.
The Kepler space telescope launched in 2009 is finely tuned enough to detect Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. The 590- million-dollar telescope programme is to spend at least the next three and a half years pointed at a large swath of the Milky Way galaxy, which contains about 4.5 million stars.
The most advanced cameras ever used in space are focussing on 100,000 to 150,000 stars deemed most likely to have orbiting planets, scientists said at a prelaunch press briefing. Data from the cameras are to be used to find planets by looking for distortions in the light being emitted as an orbiting planet crosses in front of the star.
Last month scientists said the Kepler telescope had found the smallest rocky planet outside the solar system and has also honed in on other planets.