Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kepler-30 solar system looks just like our own

NASA's Kepler space telescope has once again found interesting facts about distant stars and planets. It already aided the discovery of many interesting planetary bodies, such as Kepler 22-b which shares a lot of similarities with earth. Now, the telescope found evidence that the Kepler-30 star, which we already knew exists, has three planets in its orbit, and it just so happens that this solar systems looks a lot like ours. While that is interesting, it does not mean we are any closer to finding life in distant solar systems.

Kepler-30 is similar in size to our own sun, and has three planets in orbit aligned with the rotation of the star, as shown in the picture below. A similar form of alignment is found in our very own solar system, highlighting the similarity between the two systems. It is believed that Kepler-30 and our solar system formed in the same way, by a rotating disk of gas, and that makes things interesting.
An artist rendering of planetary orbits that align with the rotation of a star.
Kepler-30's similarity with our solar system makes it an interesting study object for astronomers. It may help to explain why solar systems such as ours have been created. Unfortunately, it is 10.000 light years away from us, which means that simple observations are impossible, and much of the data has to be inferred. Nevertheless, it is an interesting finding, as Josh Winn, co-author of a paper published in Nature noted: "the fact that the sun’s rotation is lined up with the planets’ orbits, that’s probably not some freak coincidence". Indeed, there may be a predetermined setup that leads to the development of solar systems in galaxies, a mechanism worthy of being investigated.

NASA uses their Kepler space telescope in order to study distant stars in order to find planets that orbit them. Such planets, that exist outside our own solar system and are therefore called exoplanets, could harbour life: by being able to study more distant planets, the chances increase that we will find life somewhere. So far, the mission seems pretty successful, as many stars and exoplanets have been discovered, and it is likely that there are more to come. There are billions of galaxies that each contain billions of stars, meaning that finding life elsewhere in the universe is almost an absolute certainty. We just need the tools in order to locate it.

No comments:

Post a Comment