Six-Planet Solar System Discovered, Estimated to Be Billions of Years Old

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Dec. 7 2023, Published 1:00 p.m. ET

The Milky Way is seen from Uruguay in November 2023
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • NASA and the European Space Agency astronomers discovered a group of six planets moving perfectly in sync.
  • This newly-discovered solar system is thought to be 100 light-years away; one light-year equals 5.8 trillion miles.
  • As we learn more about this discovery, we may happen upon clues to other parts of our universe.
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Not even the billionaire space race could uncover what a team of astronomers and their satellites from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) discovered in November 2023: six planets rotating in perfect synchrony in a previously-undiscovered solar system 100 light-years away, per the Associated Press (AP).

According to the AP, the gas planets are more than double the size of Earth, with approximately nine to 54-day orbits. The newly discovered solar system resides within the Milky Way Galaxy. Here's everything you should know about this exciting discovery.

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The Milky Way seen over the forest in Sri Lanka in August 2023
Source: Getty Images

A new solar system with six planets was discovered by astronomers.

Per a PBS interview transcript, six planets moving perfectly in sync were discovered in the Milky Way Galaxy in November 2023 thanks to multiple high-tech devices. NASA scientists utilized the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which has discovered 7,000 potential planets.

The ESA's counterpart, CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (commonly called "Cheops"), was also involved.

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Scientists believe the discovery may provide insight into the beginning phase of the formation of a solar system. To date, we believe there to be between 40 and 50 in-sync solar systems, per CBS News, with none as perfectly-synchronized or with a star as bright as the one within this newly-discovered system.

Further investigation is underway in an effort to provide astronomers with as much data and as many observations as possible in order to "characterize the atmosphere" of this brilliant discovery.

The Milky Way as seen from Mount Olympus in August 2018
Source: Getty Images
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The implications of discovering a new solar system are vast.

Although NASA's Kepler telescope is now retired, it is still providing scientists with new data leading to breakthrough discoveries.

Per NASA, studying the data from the Kepler telescope has led to the discovery of a system named Kepler-385, which includes seven planets, all of which are larger than the Earth.

A star that is described as "10 percent larger and 5 percent hotter than the Sun" exists within the center of the system.

According to NASA, ours is the only solar system that can currently support human life. Per the AP, the six recently discovered perfectly synchronous planets are not within a habitable zone, meaning the ability to support life is unlikely. Though, with further exploration and investigation, the implications of discovering new solar systems mean the hope that support for life outside of Earth exists.

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The Milky Way over Lake Louise in Banff National Park in October 2022
Source: Getty Images

How many solar systems are in the Milky Way?

NASA data suggests nearly 4,000 solar systems within the Milky Way Galaxy. Per Space, NASA also estimates over 100 billion planets within the Milky Way, and, ultimately, an unknowable number of solar systems as astronomers continue searching for planets.

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