(ORDO NEWS) — “This is the discovery of a multiplanetary system very similar to our solar system, but at a much earlier stage in its development.”
An international team of astronomers has captured the world’s first photograph of a multiplanetary system around a star like the Sun.
While there are many images of planets orbiting stars, such a system was first introduced with multiple exoplanets.
This is an extremely rare event.
The star, dubbed TYC 8998-760-1 and captured with the very large telescope of the European Southern Observatory (VLT ESO), is only 17 million years old. It is separated from Earth about 300 light years.
“This discovery is a snapshot of outer space, very similar to our solar system, but at a much earlier stage of development,” says Alexander Bon, a graduate student at Leiden University in the Netherlands and lead author of the study published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The image shows two bright spots of light marking two exoplanets, with a very bright star in the upper left corner. Exoplanets revolve around their star at about 160 and 320 times the distance from Earth to the Sun, which means that they are even farther from their star than Jupiter or Saturn are to the Sun.
The team also discovered that both exoplanets are extremely massive, and that the inner planet is 14 times the mass of Jupiter.
To capture the image, the team used the VLTs SPHERE tool, which is capable of blocking bright light from stars and detecting much fainter planets orbiting them.
“Although astronomers have indirectly detected thousands of planets in our galaxy, only a small fraction of these exoplanets have been obtained directly,” said co-author Matthew Kenworthy, an assistant professor at Leiden University. “Direct observation is essential in finding an environment that can support life.”
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