Examining data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, astronomers have found that an alien planetary system bears many similarities to our own, confirming parts of planet formation theory which suggest that most planetary systems begin in similar fashion. “Researchers studying the star system Kepler-30, which is 10,000 light-years from Earth, found that its three known worlds all orbit in the same plane, lined up with the rotation of the star—just like the planets in our own solar system do.” The planetary system consists of three known extrasolar planets circling a sunlike star, all of which are much larger than Earth.
What’s the Big Idea?
Since its launch in March 2009, the Kepler space telescope has located more than 2,300 potential alien worlds, 700 of which have been confirmed as genuine planets. “Kepler uses the ‘transit method,’ noting the telltale brightness dips caused when a planet crosses, or transits, a star’s face from the telescope’s perspective. In the new study, the scientists studied Kepler observations of the extrasolar system even more closely.” While we once believed our position in the cosmos was privileged, it is becoming clearer than our solar system, sun and planet may be rather ordinary. Astronomers have identified between five and ten alien planetary systems where they can further test their theories.