Nasa space telescope spots odd new solar system

February 3rd, 2011 - 2:48 am ICT by BNO News  

WASHINGTON (BNO NEWS) — NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered a planetary system including six planets orbiting a Sun-like star called Kepler-11, located approximately 2,000 light years from Earth.

“Kepler-11 is a remarkable system whose architecture and dynamics provide clues about its formation,” said Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist and Kepler science team member at Ames.

“These six planets are mixtures of rock and gases, possibly including water. The rocky material accounts for most of the planets’ mass, while the gas takes up most of their volume. By measuring the sizes and masses of the five inner planets, we determined they are among the lowest mass confirmed planets beyond our solar system,” he added.

All of the planets orbiting Kepler-11 are larger than Earth, with the largest ones being comparable in size to Uranus and Neptune. This is the largest group of transiting planets orbiting a single star yet discovered outside our solar system.

The data released on Tuesday also includes details of the 1,235 new planet candidates that have been identified by the Kepler mission.

The findings are based on the results of observations conducted May 12 to Sept. 17, 2009, of more than 156,000 stars in Kepler’s field of view, which covers approximately 1/400 of the sky.

Kepler, a space telescope, looks for planet signatures by measuring tiny decreases in the brightness of stars caused by planets crossing in front of them. The “transit” of planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars occur about once a year and require three transits for verification.

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