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Bizarre earth like planet discovered?

Astronomers have discovered a planetary system

orbiting a distant star which looks much like our own.

They found two planets that were close

matches for Jupiter and Saturn orbiting a

star about half the size of our Sun.

Martin Dominik,

from the St Andrews University, UK,

said the finding suggested systems like our

own could be much more common

than we thought.

And he told a major meeting that

astronomers were on the brink of finding

many more of them.

The St Andrews researcher said this planetary system,

and others like it,

could host terrestrial

planets like Earth.

It was just a matter of

time before such worlds were detected,

he explained.

Dr Dominik told BBC News:

“We found a system with two planets that take

the roles of Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System.

These two planets have a similar mass ratio

and similar orbital radius and a similar

orbital period.

“It looks like this may have formed in a

similar way to our Solar System.

And if this is the case, it looks like [our]

Solar System cannot be unique in the Universe.

There should be other similar systems

out there which could host terrestrial planets.”

Dr Dominik presented his work at the

Royal Astronomical Society’s National

Astronomy Meeting in Belfast.

Ultimate goal

The newfound planetary system,

which orbits the star OGLE-2006-BLG-109L,

is more compact than our own and is about

five thousand light-years away.

Although nearly 300 extrasolar planets have been identified, astronomers have consistently failed to find planetary systems which resemble our own.

But he explained that all the techniques currently used to find exoplanets were strongly biased towards detecting gas giant planets orbiting at short distances from their parent stars.

The OGLE planets were found using a technique called gravitational micro-lensing, in which light from the faraway planets is bent and magnified by the gravity of a foreground object, in this case a another star.

“It’s a kind of scaled-down version of our Solar System. The star the planets are orbiting is half as massive as the Sun and they orbit half as distant to their host star as Jupiter and Saturn orbit around the Sun,” said Dr Dominik.

He said that the ultimate goal for exoplanet researchers was to find habitable Earth-like and Mars-like planets. This aim was achievable, he said, because technology was improving all the time.

“I think it will happen quite soon,” he said, adding: “Micro-lensing can already go below Earth mass and it has detected more massive planets in the habitable zone. So in the next few years, we will see something really exciting.”

22moon.com has the first exclusive photos

from the Earth like planet the “MICRO LENSING”

system beamed back to our world.

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