Scientists announced yesterday that they detected five small planets circling an 11.3 billion year old star of our 13.7 billion year old universe. The planetary system is truly by far the oldest yet found…our solar system is dated to be about 4.5 billion years old.
The unknown is always a pleasant surprise.
Of course, the finding came as a surprise to the scientists, since they say that the early universe would not have been nearly as rich in the kinds of heavy elements needed to make planets.
Where are these planets?
This ancient solar system is the oldest known group of terrestrial-sized planets in the Milky Way,which is about 2.5 times older than the Earth, the scientists said in their study published in the Astrophysical Journal.
All five of these planets are too close to their sun and too hot to harbor life but the fact that they were formed many billions of years ago when the galaxy was still young suggests that rocky, Earth-sized planets could be more pervasive than otherwise known.
How did they find them?
The star around which the five exoplanets orbit is known as Kepler-444, located 117 light years away in the constellation Cygnus and Lyra. The star, which is 25 per cent smaller than the Sun, formed 11.2 billion years ago, less than 20 per cent of the age of the galaxy and long before the formation of the Sun.
The scientists made their discovery by monitoring the tiny fluctuations in light from the Kepler-444 star as each planet passed in between the star and the telescope. Then, via a technique called asteroseismology, the size and age of the planets were estimated from analyzing the resonating sounds trapped within the star.
The planets range in sizes between Mercury and Venus.
Nasa’s Kepler space telescope, to this day, has identified more than 4,000 planetary “candidates”, of which 1,013 have been confirmed as actual planets.
Dr. Tiago Campante, the research leader from the University of Birmingham said, “We now know that Earth-size planets have formed throughout most of the universe’s 13.8-billion-year history, which could provide scope for the existence of ancient life in the galaxy.”
More at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1501.06227