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Astronomers Detect Planetary System Similar To Our Own 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the maybe-it-has-oil dept.
littlesparkvt writes "A team of astrophysicists at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und- Raumfahrt; DLR), together with German and European colleagues, has discovered the most extensive exoplanetary system to date. Seven planets circle the star KOI-351 – more than in other known planetary systems. They are arranged in a similar fashion to the eight planets in the Solar System, with small rocky planets close to the parent star and gas giant planets at greater distances. Although the planetary system around KOI-351 is packed together more tightly, it provides an interesting comparison to our cosmic home."
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Astronomers Detect Planetary System Similar To Our Own

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:21AM (#45276777)

    All seven planets in the system are inside Earth orbit -- which may lead you to believe they're packed in tight. But one AU is 149,597,870,700m.

    The interesting thing is that this means that several of the planets could be inside the habitability zone (KOI-351 is a class G, just like the Sun, and only slightly hotter).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:54AM (#45276955)

      Are you saying that this system is packed normally, and it is our solar system which is unusually loose?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's all in the fiber.

      • by gravis777 (123605)

        Actually, that could be a possibility. As this is the most extensive exoplanetary system discovered to date, we do not have enough data to really determine what is "normal". However, quite a few of the exoplanets I have been reading about do orbit their star pretty closely (although I would say I haven't even looked at 5% of the 1000 exoplanets out there).

        It is a feasable theory to say that our planetary system is unusually loose, however, until we have more data on more systems, its impossible to say.

        A bit

        • by invid (163714)

          However, quite a few of the exoplanets I have been reading about do orbit their star pretty closely (although I would say I haven't even looked at 5% of the 1000 exoplanets out there).

          It is easier to detect planets with tight orbits because you don't have to look at it very long to see that there is a planet. For an alien to detect Earth, they would have to observe Sol for a year. For them to detect Jupiter, they would have to observe Sol for 12 years.

        • by Kjella (173770)

          Actually, that could be a possibility. As this is the most extensive exoplanetary system discovered to date, we do not have enough data to really determine what is "normal". However, quite a few of the exoplanets I have been reading about do orbit their star pretty closely (although I would say I haven't even looked at 5% of the 1000 exoplanets out there).

          The methods used are extremely biased for short transition periods meaning short time to confirmation, if I recall correctly the standard is three passes. That means three years for Earth, thirtysix years for Jupiter while many of those observed are measured in weeks and months. With greater distance from the star it's also less likely the planet will pass in the same plane as the star and us. I don't think anyone has done a metastudy that says exactly what kind of planets we wouldn't have found by now, it'

        • It is a feasable theory to say that our planetary system is unusually loose, however, until we have more data on more systems, its impossible to say.

          Actually, the Kepler mission has collected quite a bit of data. Even though Kepler is more likely to detect planets closer in to their star and larger in size, the probability of detection can be estimated. We can then divide the observed planet frequency by the probability of detection and estimate the actual statistics of planetary occurrence. I tried to find a good paper or article on this. Here is one [spacedaily.com] from 2012. According to this, the solar system is indeed very loose compared to most.

      • Are you saying that this system is packed normally, and it is our solar system which is unusually loose?

        Our solar system has been around ... if you know what I mean.

    • If they can detect an oxygenated atmosphere on one of them, that's a sure sign of life right there. Oxygen likes to be bound up with other elements, so it contently needs replenished (cracked free). A biosphere will do that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ihlosi (895663)
        If they can detect an oxygenated atmosphere on one of them, that's a sure sign of life right there.

        Um no. Life doesn't have a monopoly on splitting oxygen atoms off other compounds (CO2, H2O) - simple photolysis can do the same thing.

        • by DigiShaman (671371) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:28AM (#45278399) Homepage

          In the vast quantities we now have on Earth? Not on this planet at least. The Great Oxygenation Event was caused and maintained by life 2.4 billion years ago.

          Cyanobacteria, which appeared about 200 million years before the GOE, began producing oxygen by photosynthesis. Before the GOE, any free oxygen they produced was chemically captured by dissolved iron or organic matter. The GOE was the point when these oxygen sinks became saturated and could not capture all of the oxygen that was produced by cyanobacterial photosynthesis. After the GOE the excess free oxygen started to accumulate in the atmosphere. -wiki

          • by Ihlosi (895663)
            In the vast quantities we now have on Earth?

            Probably know. However, I don't think they can measure the exact composition of an exoplanets atmosphere. They can tell which gases are present and which are not. Even Venus has some molecular oxygen in the upper layers of its atmosphere.

    • by fatphil (181876)
      TFS doesn't say "packed together tightly" it says "packed more tightly".

      It's a comparitive. You would appear to have a problem with the statement that Peter Dinklage is taller than Warwick Davis.

      And only a nob would use metres as the unit for describing interplanetary distances. What's worse - only a complete nob would give those distances to 10 significant digits.

      There needs to be viral downmodding on /., so that it's not just the idiot who posts crap who gets punished, but everyone who upmodded it gets pu
    • by devent (1627873)

      Only the last planet is inside the habitable zone, and the last planet is a gas giant. Maybe there are smaller planets after KOI-351 b that were not discovered yet.
      http://www.openexoplanetcatalogue.com/system.html?id=KOI-351%20c [openexopla...alogue.com]

      Btw, the habitable zone is misleading anyway, because it doesn't mean that there can't be any life outside the zone. Jupiter is outside the habitable zone but there are clear indications that Ganymede have liquid water due to tidal heating.

      PS: the openexoplanetcatalogue.com is a very

  • by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:29AM (#45276823)
    Is that like working with a team of Canadians and also some North Americans?
    • Is that like working with a team of Canadians and also some North Americans?

      Well, the Canadians could be from Quebec...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gravis777 (123605)

      Are you saying there is something in America OTHER than the USA? Whoa, you need to get that commie mindset out of here! Go back to Japan, you commie!

      (Yes, I know Japan is not communist, you would just be surprised how many people are out there who thing anything that is not "America" is communist)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Want your mind blown even harder? People from Hawaii aren't even Americans!

      • by oPless (63249)

        Some of them even know how to spell 'think' properly.

        That said, there's not been much thinking done in the states recently has there?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @12:33AM (#45276845)

    Title is a bit misleading. The star is pretty close (based on temp and size, but no spectral type), yes, but all the planets are WAAAAAAAAAAY too close to it to be anywhere near habitable. The ones farther out are Jupiter sized...

    Two of the planets closer in are a bit bigger than earth, but at orbital periods of 58 and 8 days, they're a bit too hot for my taste.

    tl;dr, the qualifier " packed together more tightly" is a little bit more important than what the summary suggests

    • by Anonymous Coward

      that being said, it is still a pretty exciting find, and reminds me of the fact that the Kepler spacecraft is now dead in the ... vacuum. RIP KEPLER.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ihlosi (895663)
      The ones farther out are Jupiter sized...

      As far as we know, Jupiter-sized planets usually have moons.

    • by gravis777 (123605)

      Two of the planets closer in are a bit bigger than earth, but at orbital periods of 58 and 8 days, they're a bit too hot for my taste.

      If I am reading the chart right, there are two planets that are about 3x larger than earth, with orbital times of 121 days and one at 91 days. I can't tell from the chart if the planets are gas or rock, but given that the star is about the same size.... The one orbiting at 121 days would be around the same orbit as Mercury. Given that Mercury does have a thin atmosphere, it is possible that a planet of this size at this distance could support life, although if it does, I am sure they would look nothing like

    • No nerds will go there because of the sunlight. Ping too high for underground gaming. Society will collapse.

  • Ab amazing example of Hodgkin's law of Parallel Planet Development. The parallel is almost too close, Captain.
  • "Slashdot commenter finds news story similar to others past"
  • It's always intrigued me that planetary distances (if you include Ceres) follow so neatly to a logarithmic pattern. I wonder if this is something unusual in the solar system.
    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      I wonder if this is something unusual in the solar system.

      I think it has to do with oscillations and resonances. It shouldn't be too unique.

  • As near as I can tell, the only planet in this system that is within the habitable zone is KOI-351 b, a Jupiter sized planet. Based on that, it's easy to say: No life in that system! However, as a matter of speculation, what if the planet has a moon similar to Earth? To say that a planet may harbor life is one thing, but we should also consider that very large planets within a systems habitable zone may have Earth sized, life sustaining moons. If planetary discovery has taught us anything, it is that gas gi
    • by Narishma (822073)

      If planetary discovery has taught us anything, it is that gas giants are likely more common than smaller rocky planets.

      Not necessarily. They may just be (a lot) easier to spot.

      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        I considered that as well. But science is beginning to emerge from the infancy of extra-solar planet hunting, and many scientists seem confident in their findings and their data is compelling. Time will tell.
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I would create some interesting Day/Night cycles due to the fact that the planet would come between the moon and the star and create an eclipse. Taking Europa as an example, it's orbital period is 3.5 days, but also interestingly enough, is tidally locked. which means one side would get a lot more sun than the other. Ganymede, which is the largest moon in the solar system, has an orbital period of 7 days, and is also tidally locked. I'm not sure how common it is, but of the three moons I am now educated
      • by danlip (737336)

        They are tidally locked to Jupiter, not the sun. Which means all sides should get an equal amount of sunlight, with a "day" being roughly 3.5 days for Europa and 7 for Ganymede. Plus the side facing Jupiter would have a long eclipse at noon each day and a lot of reflected light from Jupiter at night. The other side would have neither, but I don't think it would make a big difference in the total mount of light.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          The side facing the planet would not be getting as much direct light. When behind the planet it wouldn't get any. When directly between the planet and the star, it wouldn't get any, although as you said, it would get the reflected light from the planet. I don't know if it could get enough light this way to heat up the planet significantly. When on the "side" of the planet, it would get some direct sun, although it would have to go through more atmosphere, because of the angle, and therefore it wouldn't wa
      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        Tidally locked moons are a good point that amplifies where I was trying to go with my comment. If only one side of a moon can support life, then great and so what - although I imagine the weather would be kinda crazy with a thick atmosphere. I suppose the whole purpose of my initial post was to suggest that we need to keep a very broad mind on where and on what life, potentially complex and maybe even intelligent, could evolve and exist. As I follow the science of planet finding as closely as I can, it seem
  • What I've never really seen discussed is that our methods of detection all rely on what are really rather astonishingly precise circumstances - ie that we as observers are exactly in the ecliptic of the target system.
    This system was discovered by transit-dimming, others by spectral variability implying 'wobbling' of the stellar primary. Certainly the former doesn't work if the planet doesn't actually transit the target solar disk, and I don't believe the other works for even small angle-off observers eithe

  • *sigh* I guess we won't be checking those planets out any time soon.

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