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Astronomers Detect Planetary System Similar To Our Own

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the maybe-it-has-oil dept.

Space 54

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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Packed together tightly is misleading (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#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).

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45276955)

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

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45277157)

It's all in the fiber.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45278117)

In space there is a lot of space, seriously more than one can imagine, I've seen several comparisons like putting the earth the size of a golf ball and then saying how many miles/meters way mars would be. With nothing in between except void and radiation.

I don't have the numbers and am to lazy to search it but i remember actually trying to picture a dark room with a pee (everything we know, continents, vast distances countries far far a way) being earth quite a few meters of emptiness and a a half a pee on the other side, we would be smaller and viruses, and having to travel on a microscopic spaceship from one planet to another.

There is a lot of emptiness, a lot.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45278565)

picture a dark room with a pee

"Pee" is to urinate, or piss. I think you meant "pea".

and a a half a pee on the other side

Well, at least you're consistent.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (2)

gravis777 (123605) | about 9 months ago | (#45278203)

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 more serious - does anyone know if the habitable zone is the same regardless of star size (ie the futher you are from the star, the more heat disipates, regardless of star size?). Just wondering. It seems logical that planets in a smaller star would be more tightly packed together and planets around a larger star are more loosly packed together, but I do not know enough about that. Can someone shed some light on that?

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (2)

invid (163714) | about 9 months ago | (#45278739)

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.

Re: Packed together tightly is misleading (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | about 9 months ago | (#45289223)

Fukcing Jupiter!

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45279327)

A bit more serious - does anyone know if the habitable zone is the same regardless of star size

Not just size but spectrum.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 9 months ago | (#45280253)

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's probably too much of a moving target and too much uncertainty. In time I guess we'll get there (as in if there was a planet there we'd have seen it by now) but right now I don't think any of the searches are exhaustive.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (1)

green is the enemy (3021751) | about 9 months ago | (#45284395)

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.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (1)

sharknado (3217097) | about 9 months ago | (#45280817)

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.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45282029)

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

KOI = Kepler Object of Interest. Kepler is looking for transiting exoplanets which causes a bias towards discovering planets orbiting close to their host star.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 9 months ago | (#45277421)

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:Packed together tightly is misleading (2, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 9 months ago | (#45277683)

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.

Re: Packed together tightly is misleading (4, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 9 months ago | (#45278399)

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

Re: Packed together tightly is misleading (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 9 months ago | (#45278821)

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.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (1)

fatphil (181876) | about 9 months ago | (#45278675)

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 punished too for their ignorance.

Re:Packed together tightly is misleading (1)

devent (1627873) | about 9 months ago | (#45282821)

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 cool site.

Germans AND Europeans? (5, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | about 9 months ago | (#45276823)

Is that like working with a team of Canadians and also some North Americans?

Re:Germans AND Europeans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45277093)

Germany isn't European. They're just the huns than own Europe.

Re:Germans AND Europeans? (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 9 months ago | (#45277303)

Is that like working with a team of Canadians and also some North Americans?

Well, the Canadians could be from Quebec...

Re:Germans AND Europeans? (2, Funny)

gravis777 (123605) | about 9 months ago | (#45278215)

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)

Re:Germans AND Europeans? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45278553)

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

Re:Germans AND Europeans? (0)

oPless (63249) | about 9 months ago | (#45279267)

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?

Re:Germans AND Europeans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45328791)

Are you saying there is something in America OTHER than the USA? [Guam? US Virgin Islands?] 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)

In most of these contexts, "America" is short for United States of America. An American is - by the most common definition - a citizen of the USA. If you say a "North American", it becomes unclear.

-Mexican
-Canadian
-American

Pick one. That our country name includes a portion of our contintent name is the likely cause of your confusion.

https://www.google.com/search?q=define+american&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

To reply to other AC, people from Hawaii are Americans if they are citizens of the United States of America. If they are single-citizenship citizens from Mexico or Canada, then they are not Americans.

It has little to do with American bravado, AFAIK.

Similar to our own.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#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

Re:Similar to our own.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45276863)

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:Similar to our own.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45277699)

Just remember that the probability of finding big / small period planets is far greater than small / large period.
This means that detecting earth like planets (small, rocky and habitable) is harder than extreme hot and close to the star.
This tends to mislead the people that earth-like and habitable are WAY to rare. That WOULD be true if we had the current results AND the probability of finding small vs large and long vs short period planets would be the same (or if was even easy to calculate the distribution, which is not, since we don't have enough data and our observations are too biased by our detection techniques). Of course this is not so.

Re:Similar to our own.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45277979)

So they are extremely strong and fast reptilians who consider warm-blooded creatures exotic and yummy -- like deep sea fish for us.

Re:Similar to our own.... (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 9 months ago | (#45278017)

The ones farther out are Jupiter sized...

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

Re:Similar to our own.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45278647)

That are getting bathed in crazy amounts of radiation.

Re:Similar to our own.... (2)

gravis777 (123605) | about 9 months ago | (#45278287)

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 us (we would probably still cook).

The planets futher out have orbits of 210 and 331 Earth days, but are 8.1 and 11.3x larger than Earth. However, if they had moons....

Re:Similar to our own.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45284889)

You read that correctly. But keep in mind that 3x the size of earth is not earth like....it is equally correct (as in the charts) that those planets are ~1/4 or ~1/3 the radius of Jupiter.

Re: Similar to our own.... (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | about 9 months ago | (#45289237)

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

Bread & Circuses and Omega Glory (1)

mrego (912393) | about 9 months ago | (#45276881)

Ab amazing example of Hodgkin's law of Parallel Planet Development. The parallel is almost too close, Captain.

new headline (1, Funny)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 9 months ago | (#45276919)

"Slashdot commenter finds news story similar to others past"

SO LET US BRING CAKE AND COOKIES !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45276971)

And say HOWDY !! to the new neighbors !! It will only take ... a few ZILLION YEARS to get there !!

Distance from us (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 9 months ago | (#45278033)

I had to read the article a couple times, but given that KOI-351 is 2.5k ly from here, I think we're looking at something like 25M years for the fastest intercept we could currently manage.

Even at lightspeed we wouldn't be trading letters anytime soon.

Re:Distance from us (1)

SpaceManFlip (2720507) | about 9 months ago | (#45281585)

I was going to comment on here that the question nobody seems to be asking is "HOW FAR AWAY ARE THESE PLANETS?" but finally somebody did think of it I guess. I couldn't find it in the article anywhere, but I just skimmed over it a couple of times with the pattern recognition goggles brain application.

If it really is 2500 light years away, then we have no hope of getting there without quantum teleportation etc. But if we could do that, then sending a well-equipped spacecraft out there somewhere in that solar system to check it out would be a good plan I think. Get to work, folks.

Re:Distance from us (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 9 months ago | (#45288309)

It's in the article, just buried. I'm afraid that the 'life equation' is shaping up that life, much less intelligent life, is likely to be more than 5k ly apart on average. It's rare.

If we're to have any hope of sending something off, or even seriously sending some sort of probe off, it's going to have to be within a hundred light years. I figure we've checked those with a relative 'fine toothed comb' already. Being able to 'look' at them with over 10X the resolution due to the OOM closer distance would make it easy.

But do they follow Titus Bode's law? (2)

91degrees (207121) | about 9 months ago | (#45277403)

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.

Re:But do they follow Titus Bode's law? (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 9 months ago | (#45277853)

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.

Hang911 (-1, Offtopic)

Lê Hằng (3415129) | about 9 months ago | (#45278085)

Is that like working with a team of Canadians and also some North Americans? - tai game pikachu mien phi [taigamepik...ienphi.org]

Don't forget the possible moon factor (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 9 months ago | (#45278567)

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 giants are likely more common than smaller rocky planets. If that is the case, it may very well turn out the the majority of Earth-sized life sustaining objects may orbit these larger planets, and that our own system is unusual in that our own planet is not orbiting such a thing.

Re:Don't forget the possible moon factor (1)

Narishma (822073) | about 9 months ago | (#45280251)

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.

Re:Don't forget the possible moon factor (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 9 months ago | (#45280329)

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.

Re:Don't forget the possible moon factor (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 9 months ago | (#45281039)

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 on, they are all tidally locked. This presents it's own challenges to life, although I'm sure it wouldn't discount life completely.

Re:Don't forget the possible moon factor (1)

danlip (737336) | about 9 months ago | (#45281493)

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.

Re:Don't forget the possible moon factor (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 9 months ago | (#45283997)

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 warm the planet as much. Similar to the poles or our planet, where they will have 24 hours of sunlight for months at a time, but the temperature will still be cold because the sunlight has to travel through a lot more atmosphere to get there.

Re:Don't forget the possible moon factor (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about 9 months ago | (#45281727)

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 seems science is bent of life supporting Earth like planets existing in a state similar to ours. I find this rather biased and I think there is likely a logical fallacy in there. We are just getting starting on planet finding and the truth is, we have very little to compare our own planet to. There is no reason to believe that the solar system configuration we have, and the Earth as it exists in it as a life bearing planet, is remotely common. As time goes by, we may find many and wildly varied stellar configuration that support life - even if it isn't life as we understand, which is another limitation in our thinking and approach.

Methods and questions (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 9 months ago | (#45278643)

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 either.

So what are the odds?
Even granting that we're all relatively within a galactic ecliptic, and that this presumably is at least a small factor in the bearing of all our ecliptics, that's a very long way from saying we're all sitting happily in some stellar flatland. Even our own very flat system, an outsider as close as the oort cloud would have to be *astonishingly* lucky to be in a spot where - essentially - more than one planet would eclipse the sun regularly from his/her/its viewing point. And we're doing it at distances hundreds of thousands of times further.

Given that we've already identified thousands of planets with our relatively crude methods, I can't imagine that theoretically we could expect better than a one in a thousand chance that a given target system would be 'arranged' to be something we could detect in the first place, regardless of how well-populated it is with stars?

2721 light years (1)

sproketboy (608031) | about 9 months ago | (#45279377)

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

Re: 2721 light years (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | about 9 months ago | (#45289253)

Meh. If you ask me, they're overrated.

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