Scientists have discovered a solar system similar to ours that contains scaled-down versions of Saturn and Jupiter. This finding suggests that our galaxy hosts many star systems like our own.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of KASI - CBNU - ARCSEC (KASI is the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, CBNU is the Chungbuk National University, and ARCSEC is Astrophysical Research Center for the Structure and Evolution of the Cosmos.)

A Newly Discovered Solar System Contains Scaled-Down Versions of Saturn and Jupiter
News story originally written on February 14, 2008

For a long time, scientists have wondered if there are other systems of planets like our own in our galaxy. Recently a team of astronomers discovered a solar system almost 5,000 light years away that has smaller versions of Jupiter and Saturn. This discovery means that there might actually be star systems similar to our solar system.

The new solar system seems to be a smaller version of our own. One of the planets in this solar system has almost three-quarters of Jupiter's mass and another has 90 percent of Saturn's mass. The sun they orbit has about half the mass of our sun. Although their sun is is not as bright as our sun, temperatures at both planets are probably the same as temperatures on Jupiter and Saturn because they are closer to their star.

When astronomers observe a star through a telescope, the light waves usually travel straight from the star to the telescope; but if another star passes in between the telescope and the star they are looking at, the closer star acts like a lens and magnifies the incoming light. The telescope can't show a lot of details, but if there are planets orbiting around the closer star, the view from the telescope will show a brighter light where there is a planet. Astronomers can use this information to tell how large the planet is and how far away it is from its star.

This is what happened when the astronomers discovered the new solar system. While they were looking at one star another, another star that is closer to Earth passed in front of the star they were observing. The light from the stars became brighter and the astronomers were able to tell that there were planets like Jupiter and Saturn orbiting around the star.

Scott Gaudi, one of the astronomers who worked on this project, said that while people might think it was lucky that they were able to see this new solar system, he thinks "it might just mean that these systems are common throughout our galaxy."

Last modified March 13, 2008 by Becca Hatheway.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

What is mass?

Would it be more difficult to pull an elephant or a mouse? If you pulled each animal with the same amount of force, the elephant would respond less to pulling, even if he didnít pull back at all. Thatís...more

The Solar System

The solar system is made up of the Sun, the // Call the planets count function defined in the document head print_planet_count('planets'); planets and // Call the planets count function defined in the...more

Triggers of Volcanic Eruptions in Oregon's Mount Hood Investigated

Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. "The data will help give us a better road map to what a future...more

Oldest Earth Mantle Reservoir Discovered

The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core, and makes up about 84 percent of the Earth's volume. The mantle is made up of many distinct portions or...more

Itís Not Your Fault Ė A Typical Fault, Geologically Speaking, That Is

Some geologic faults that appear strong and stable, slip and slide like weak faults, causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults in a new way to figure out why. In theory,...more

Lower Solar Activity Linked to Changes in Sun's Conveyor Belt

The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more

Growth Spurt in Tree Rings Prompts Questions About Climate Change

Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like for each year of a tree's life, which means they can tell us about climates of the past and about...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA