A little over a year ago, the Khufu Space Telescope was launched, with the aim of searching for so-called “exoplanets” around other stars. More than 4,000 of these are known, but the Khufu Telescope, which has very high resolution, is now beginning to provide results.
Around the star TOI-178, 200 light-years from Earth, six planets were found where it was thought that there might be two. Of the six, five walk in a step that makes them form what is called a resonant chain.
– When a planet goes through one revolution, the next two revolutions and the third three, and so on. They are related to each other. This cannot be a coincidence. Alexis Brandeiker of Stockholm University, one of the five Swedish researchers behind the study, says it has to be related to how it was formed once.
“Some are a little bigger than Earth.”
The first theory for scientists is that planets formed outside the star and moved inward. During the movement, they influenced each other so that they quickly became in series. The outermost of the six has an orbital period – one year – of only 20 days, which is much shorter than the deepest planet in our system, Mercury, which has 88 days.
But other things in the system are not organized, Alexis Brandeiker says:
Using observations from other telescopes, we calculated how massive and massive the planets were. Some are slightly larger than Earth and have a high density, while others are lighter gaseous planets with a lower density. Like Neptune with us. In our solar system, there are dense rocky planets inside and gaseous planets outside. But in this system there are heavy and light holes around the noise.
Something similar exists in one place in our solar system, the large inner moons around Jupiter. Alexis Brandeiker says they are also moving around the planet in a chain like this.
This planetary system was an unexpected discovery. It can help us understand how planets form. But it will be a real challenge for theorists to try to understand how this might happen.