In this video we explore the ultimate frontier with our host Dr J, a.k.a. Dr Joe Liske.
Astronomers using ESO telescopes and others around the world have found three new planets orbiting stars in a cluster called Messier 67. Only a
handful of such planets in clusters were known up to now.
Surprisingly, one of the newly found planetary host stars seems to be an almost perfect solar twin, a star that is essentially identical to our own Sun. It’s the first exoplanet orbiting a solar twin in a star cluster to be discovered.
Considering that we know of about a thousand confirmed exoplanets, that might not sound like much but this finding is in fact, a little unusual
because these 3 planets orbit stars inside a cluster of stars known as Messier 67. Planets orbiting stars outside the Solar System are now known to be very common. These exoplanets have been found orbiting stars of widely varied ages and chemical compositions and are scattered across the sky. But, up to now, very few planets have been found inside star clusters. This is particularly odd as it is known that most stars are born in such clusters. Astronomers have wondered if there might be something different about planet formation in star clusters to explain this strange paucity.
These recent discoveries confirm that planets in clusters are quite common, although very hard to spot. They will also allow scientists to examine how planets form in the crowded environment of a star cluster
To find the new exoplanets astronomers used the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. They carefully monitored 88 selected stars in Messier 67 for a number of years. That allowed them to look for the tiny tell-tale motions of the stars that reveal the presence of orbiting planets.
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