AUG 12, 2016 11:11 AM PDT

Systems with Tightly-Packed Planets May Teach Us More About Our Own Solar System

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Scientists are always out to learn more about how our Solar System formed, the only problem is, we don’t have a time machine and how it formed is a bit of a mystery. On the other hand, we can always try to observe other systems in the universe that look a bit like ours and study the characteristics so we can compare it to ours and learn more.
 
One of the things scientists look for in this process are systems with tightly-spaced inner planets (STIPs), these are essentially systems where the planets are going to be small and orbit very closely together around their host star. Such environments are similar to the inner planets in our Solar System, basically from the asteroid belt inwards.
 

STIPs are a rare type of system where planets form incredibly close to their star.

 
Researchers Mariah MacDonald and Darin Ragozzine from the Florida Institute of Technology have been eyeballing one of these systems in particular using data accumulated from NASA’s Kepler mission, and their findings are available in a paper online and have been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.
 
Some 1,100 light years away, a star dubbed Kepler-80 plays host to one of these particularly rare systems. Inside of it, there are five small planets that are orbiting the star very closely, and all of them appear to have strange orbits.
 
So what’s so strange about them?
 
It turns out that the planets actually orbit their host star up to 150 times closer than the Earth is from our Sun. Because of this, it doesn’t take very long for the planets to make a full orbit around their host star. A full orbit may take only around one to nine Earth days.
 
What’s more is because the planets were so close to one another while orbiting their star, each of them had a gravitational influence on the planets around them, which means orbits around their star could vary by up to 0.001 percent with each orbit.
 
Despite the variation, however, the planets seem very stable in their orbit because once every 27 days, they would return to about same orbital configuration. This is something that’s particularly unique about this system and it’s interesting to observe.
 
“The outer four planets return to almost exactly the same configuration every 27 days,” said Ragozzine. This effect is known as a “resonance” and helps the system remain gravitationally stable.
 
So what does all of this mean for our Solar System?
 
Not very much, but the four outer-most planets were very Earth-like and rocky. The scientists note that they were anywhere from 4-6x the mass of the Earth and the sizes varied because of the gassy atmospheres that some of the planets had.
 
Nevertheless, the fact that the planets are forming so close to their host stars is definitely shaking up the way we think about the formation of planets. We continue to search for more answers about how the Earth formed, and it seems every time we get a grip, a new system changes everything that we think we know.
 
NASA’s Kepler mission is still out there and scanning the nearby systems of our galaxy for clues.
 
Source: Florida Institute of Technology via Nature World News

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAY 02, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Average Day on Venus Lasts 243 Earth Days
MAY 02, 2021
Average Day on Venus Lasts 243 Earth Days
Although Venus is our planet’s closest neighbour, its fundamental properties have remained largely unknown. Now th ...
MAY 17, 2021
Space & Astronomy
What is the Potential for Life on Mars?
MAY 17, 2021
What is the Potential for Life on Mars?
International organizations are pouring in billions of dollars to find signs of life on Mars. While some evidence points ...
AUG 27, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Model the Titan Moon in a Tube
AUG 27, 2021
Researchers Model the Titan Moon in a Tube
An image of Saturn's moon Titan on November 11, 1980 during Voyager 1's flyby. Courtesy NASA/JPL-CalTech/Kevin M. Gill
AUG 30, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Is it Safe to Travel to Mars?
AUG 30, 2021
Is it Safe to Travel to Mars?
It should be safe for humans to travel to Mars, provided journeys don’t take more than four years. The correspondi ...
SEP 16, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Under Pressure: Physicists Discover New Property of Black Holes and Quantum Gravity
SEP 16, 2021
Under Pressure: Physicists Discover New Property of Black Holes and Quantum Gravity
Two physicists at the University of Sussex have made a startling discovery about black holes: they exert a pressure on t ...
OCT 29, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
#BlackinPhysics Week Celebrates Black Physicists
OCT 29, 2021
#BlackinPhysics Week Celebrates Black Physicists
#BlackinPhysics week, a week dedicated to highlighting Black physicists and their contributions to the field of physics. ...
Loading Comments...