Astronomers have discovered a rare system of six young planets and a possible seventh that dance around a misbehaving infant star.
Not only could this system provide much-needed insight into how planets form and evolve around an infant star, but its similarity to the solar system could provide astronomers with a snapshot of what our cosmic neighborhood could have looked like around 4 billion years ago.
The six, possibly seven, exoplanets orbit a relatively close dwarf star in the Milky Way called TOI-1136; it’s located around 270 light-years from Earth. The large number of exoplanets in the system inspired scientists to investigate deeper.
“Because few star systems have as many planets as this one does, it’s getting close in size to our own solar system,” Tara Fetherolf, team member and a visiting professor of astrophysics at the University of California, said in a statement. “It’s both similar enough and different enough that we can learn a lot.”
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A rare young multi-planet star system with a hyperactive infant star
Scientists initially studied the TOI-1136 planetary system using NASA’s exoplanet-hunting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in 2019. Fetherolf and colleagues followed up on this initial study with observations from multiple telescopes, revealing the masses of the planets, the shape of their orbits, and even the characteristics of their atmospheres.
The planets in the system, designated names between TOI-1136 b to TOI-1136 g, are classed as “sub-Neptune” planets. The smallest of the six confirmed worlds has a width twice that of Earth, while some of its sibling planets are as large as four times the size of our planet — around the size of the solar system ice giants Uranus and Neptune.
All of the TOI-1136 exoplanets are so close to their parent star that they complete an orbit in less than 88 Earth days. This is significant because 88 days is the…