It’s a shame about Pluto. Now that the astronomical community has downgraded the once-furthest planet from the sun to non-planet status (technically it’s now referred to as a protoplanet or dwarf planet), our solar system is at risk of being unseated as the largest known planetary system in the universe. An astronomer at the University of Hertfordshire has revisited data related to nearby star HD 10180 and discovered that it very likely has nine planets, making it the most populous known solar system.
Each star in the Milky Way shines its light upon at least one companion planet, according to a new analysis that suddenly renders exoplanets commonplace, the rule rather than the exception. This means there are billions of worlds just in our corner of the cosmos. This is a major shift from just a few years ago, when many scientists thought planets were tricky to make, and therefore special things. Now we know they're more common than stars themselves.
"Planets are like bunnies; you don't just get one, you get a bunch," said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute who was not involved in this research.
Two more little Earth-sized planets have been discovered orbiting a distant star, astronomers said Wednesday, and their bizarre baked death may foreshadow the destiny of our own solar system. The publication comes a day after the announcement of the first Earth-sized planets ever confirmed outside our solar system. Already firmly in the exoplanet age, we're apparently entering an era of exo-Earths, full of small worlds with a past and a future very much like our own.
Two small, scorched Earth-sized worlds orbiting a reddish sun-like star in the Cygnus constellation mark yet another milestone for the storied Kepler Space Telescope mission. They're the smallest exoplanets found to date — one of them is just 1.03 times the size of Earth, a veritable body double.
As astronomers continue mining data from the Kepler telescope, the planetary peculiarities keep on coming. We've already seen the smallest rocky world, 54 planets in a Goldilocks comfort zone around their stars, and even the possibility of planets sharing the same orbit.
Scientists think they have seen a baby planet swirling to life around a very young sun-like star, about 350 light years from Earth in the southern constellation Chameleon. If they can confirm their discovery, it would be the earliest picture yet of a natal planetary system, further illuminating how planets are born.