Quirks & Quarks

Ancient Planets

Astronomers have discovered a solar system more than 11 billion years old.
Illustration of Kepler-444 and its planets (Tiago Campante/Peter Devine)
Astronomers have discovered a planetary system with small, rocky "Earth-like" planets that is 11.2 billion years old - only a little less than the age of the universe itself.

Dr. Tiago Compante, an Asteroseismology Research Fellow at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham, and his colleagues, used the subtle fluctuations in its light to determine the age of Kepler-444, a nearby star slightly smaller than our Sun, orbited by five rocky planets.

The five planets are all smaller than Earth, and orbit much too close to their star to host life.  However, the fact that this type of planet could form in the conditions of the early universe is surprising, and suggests that more hospitable planets might have existed for a very long time, indeed.

Related Links

- Paper in The Astrophysical Journal
- University of Birmingham release
- Iowa state University release
New Scientist story
- CBC News story