Astronomers spot rare star system forming six planets

Rare formation of six planets is referred to as “resonant chain” where each is in resonance with the planets next to it
An undated image illustrates revolving planets. — Unsplash
An undated image illustrates revolving planets. — Unsplash

Scientists have found a special group of planets that go around a star in a unique way, making a total of six planets in this system that move in a special pattern because of something called orbital resonance.

To learn about this system called HD110067, which is 100 light-years away, astronomers utilised NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the European Space Agency's CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS).

In this system, the planets follow a specific pattern wherein one planet goes around the star three times while another does it two times. Another planet completes six orbits while the next one does only one, and so on. It's like a beautiful dance in space.

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The six planets form what is called a “resonant chain” where each is in resonance with the planets next to it.

“Amongst the over 5,000 exoplanets discovered orbiting other stars than our sun, resonances are not rare, nor are systems with several planets. What is extremely rare though, is to find systems where the resonances span such a long chain of six planets,” explained Hugh Osborn, one of the researchers of the University of Bern, in a statement.

The planets in this system are a type called sub-Neptunes, which means they are smaller than Neptune and different from any planets in our solar system. However, these sub-Neptunes are believed to be very common among planets outside our solar system.

Usually, planets form in a special way because of gravity, and they might end up moving in a pattern. But sometimes, this pattern can get messed up by things like a star passing by or a big asteroid hitting them.

Scientists are interested in studying systems like HD110067 because it can show what a planetary system might look like if nothing big or dramatic happens to it, giving us more information about how planets form and move.

“We think only about 1% of all systems stay in resonance,” said researcher Rafael Luque of the University of Chicago. “It shows us the pristine configuration of a planetary system that has survived untouched.”