Feeds

NASA hails 'amazing' exoplanetary system

Six bodies huddled around distant yellow dwarf

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Discworld(s)

Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist and a Kepler science team member, said: "The Kepler-11 planetary system is amazing. It’s amazingly compact, it’s amazingly flat, there’s an amazingly large number of big planets orbiting close to their star – we didn’t know such systems could even exist."

By "flat", Lissauer means that Kepler-11's planets orbit in pretty much the same plane, as do the planets in our own solar system. Keplers b to f have orbital periods between 10 and 47 days, while the outermost world circles in a rather more tardy 118 days.

All of the Kepler planets are less dense than Earth, leading scientists to suspect that while "their surfaces could be rocky or a combination of rock and ice", they may "also have a lot of gas because their densities are so low", as Kepler astronomer Eric Ford of the University of Florida put it.

Specifically, Kepler-11d, Kepler-11e and Kepler-11f "have a significant amount of light gas, which Lissauer says indicates that at least these three planets formed early in the history of the planetary system, within a few million years".

NASA explains that such bodies form from a star's protoplanetary disc "relatively quickly in order to obtain gases before the disk disperses". It elaborates: "Protoplanetary disks can be seen around most stars that are less than a million years old, but few stars more than five million years old have them."

Kepler will continue to eye Kepler-11 with a view to providing further insights into the system. Lissauer said: "These data will enable us to calculate more precise estimates of the planet sizes and masses, and could allow us to detect more planets orbiting the Kepler-11 star.

"Perhaps we could find a seventh planet in the system, either because of its transits or from the gravitational tugs it exerts on the six planets that we already see. We’re going to learn a fantastic amount about the diversity of planets out there, around stars within our galaxy."

The Kepler-11 findings are published in today's issue of Nature.

NASA, meanwhile, is hailing even more Kepler planetary revelations, including the "first candidates in the habitable zone, a region where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface".

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Next page: Supersize us

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.