Five ancient planets have been recently discovered as a part of the Milky Way galaxy, showing characteristics of being almost as old as the universe itself. Known by their name of “exoplanets”, they circle Kepler-444, an incredibly old star just a smidge smaller than our sun, found at a distance of 117 light-years away from Earth.
All of the five planets are quite unknown to the scientists, their Venus-size being one of the few characteristics experts could collect about them. Another feature is the fact that all the planets complete an orbit in less than 10 days, turning them into hot-balls with incredibly high temperatures which do not support human life. However, the discoveries around the Kepler-444 point to the possible existence of other ancient planetary systems which could prove more welcoming to our race.
It is commonly believed that the universe was formed during a period of more than 13 billion years, providing the strong possibility of other archaic life in different galaxies. To put things into perspective, our own solar system is barely 4.6 billion years old.
The chief author of the study, Tiago Campante, and his team of researchers, has found the Kepler-444 star and its planets after studying the data collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The telescope has a very smart way of hunting planets, by studying the way the host star brightens up in certain spots, when the star is viewed through the spacecraft’s “eyes”.
Kepler can also detect the changing in brightness through sound waves, calculating the way it affects the star’s temperature, and therefore, its luminosity. The discipline of studying these variables is called asteroseismology, and through this strategy, scientists are able to establish the size, mass and age of different stars. At first, at the very genesis of asteroseismology, the experts could only apply the technique to the sun and some of the brighter stars, but Kepler has made it possible for technicians to study thousands and thousands of other stars.
Asteroseismology is a very precise method, calculating for example, the radius of Kepler-444, and thus revealing the size of its five planets. For example, the smallest of them, a bit larger than Mercury, was measured with a miscalculation of only 100 kilometers.
The Kepler spacecraft launched in March 2009, its mission being to find as many Earth-like planets in our galaxy as it could. Until now, Kepler has found more than 1,000 exoplanets, with many more possible candidates awaiting their confirmation.
Image Source: The Telegraph