The astronomers have found an interesting exoplanets orbiting a star in the Habitable Zone, a region of the sky where liquid water and other materials can exist.
This is a region where planets have a chance of forming from material in the star’s core.
The exoplanetary systems are around about the size of Earth and have a diameter of less than a million kilometres.
They are thought to be rocky, about 10 times more massive than Earth, and probably have a dense atmosphere.
The astronomers studied the star named Deneb, which is in the constellation of Eridanus.
The star is located at a distance of about 8 million kilometres, which means that the planets orbit it at an average distance of around 400 million kilometres from the star.
In contrast, the Sun orbits the Earth at about 11 million kilometres and so it is expected that there will be a very small chance that one of the exoplaner systems will be tidally locked, where one planet is in orbit around the other.
“There are two types of tidally-locked planets: tidally (locked) planets that have a fixed position on the sky and those that can change position by wobbling their orbits,” said Dr Simon Taggart, a member of the team at the University of Birmingham.
“These planets have the same rotation rate and the same density, so there is no need for any tidal forces on them.”
In a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, the team describe their discovery.
They found an unusual planetary system that has a large fraction of its surface covered in water ice, a common sign of a rocky planet.
This indicates that the exo-planets were likely formed as a result of a collision between a rocky world and another one.
The team also found a planet with a large number of rocky moons.
The planets are estimated to have a mass of about 1,000 times the Earth’s mass and orbit in a star system that contains around 500 planets.
The discovery is significant, as it indicates that there is still a lot of work to be done before we can definitively identify the types of planets in our own solar system.
“It is quite possible that some of the planets we have found in the Kepler space telescope are actually habitable, but that this is a very challenging and highly dependent on the quality of the data we receive,” said Professor Taggert.
“We would like to use these planets to test whether or not we are on the right track in our search for life in the Universe.”
He said the findings are particularly interesting given that the star in question is located in the Southern Hemisphere, and therefore has an atmosphere of very thin gas.
This makes it particularly important to look at this star system to investigate whether or no such planets exist in other stars, and the answer to that question could help us answer some of our most fundamental questions about the Universe.
“For example, it would also be interesting to find out if the atmospheres of some of these planets could be produced by an explosion, or if they have a very different composition than the surrounding gas,” he said.
“This could be important for us to understand whether life in other galaxies is possible.
It would also give us a very strong indication of whether life on other planets is possible.”
The study was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Australia (NSERC), Australian Research Council, the Australian National University and the Australian Institute of Physics.
Source: New Scientist article