Technology & Science

Parallel solar system discovered

Researchers have detected a solar system 10,000 light years away that is very much like our own, with planets that have aligned orbits close to a parent star.

Researchers have detected a solar system 10,000 light years away that is very much like our own, with planets that have aligned orbits close to a parent star.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California at Santa Cruz discovered the faraway system by examining data from NASA's Kepler space telescope.

The centre of this mirror system is a massive, bright star named Kepler-30, which operates much like our sun.

"In our solar system, the trajectory of the planets is parallel to the rotation of the sun," said Roberto Sanchis-Ojeda, a physics graduate student at MIT who lead the research team.

"In this system, the same thing happens."

The findings were published Tuesday in the journal Nature and may help shed light on our own solar system. 

Researchers believe the Kepler-30 is a very young star and rotates once every 16 days or so. There are three planets that orbit it: one every 29 days, another every 60 days and the third every 143 days.

"It's telling me that the solar system isn't some fluke," said Josh Winn, who co-authored the report and is an associate professor of physics at MIT. 

"The fact that the sun’s rotation is lined up with the planet's orbits, that's probably not some freak coincidence."

The Kepler-30 system is only the second one, other than our own solar system, that has aligned orbits. Previous to its discovery, scientists were stuck analyzing solar systems that had off-kilter orbits — many of these planets, dubbed "hot Jupiters," orbited close to their parent star.

It's believed these white-hot stars may have been whacked awry in the early volatile period of a planetary system's formation. 

However, scientists needed to find another solar system similar to ours to prove that point.

Studying planetary orbits may provide more comprehension on how life evolved in the universe since a planet needs to be in stable orbit in order to have a stable climate to support life.

"We've been hungry for one like this," said James Lloyd, assistant professor of astronomy at Cornell University, who looked at the study.