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article imageNASA finds six exoplanets orbiting a sun 2000 light-years away

By Kev Hedges     Feb 2, 2011 in Science
Scientists at NASA have spotted six planets orbiting a star some 2,000-light-years away. The solar system has remarkable similarities to our own.
The find, released from data by the Keplar space telescope, reveals all six planets are at least twice the size of Earth, and some are 13 times its mass. The planets are likely to have light gas atmospheres and would be too hot to support life - five of the planets orbit the star even closer than Mercury orbits our Sun. The finding has been classified as the Keplar-11 system.
The Kepler team have released the data that led to the discovery as part of its commitment to open its findings publicly, reports BBC Science & Environment. The discovery differs from the planetary system HD10180, announced in August 2010 - in that discovery, the "wobble" that the planets' gravity caused on their host star was used to determine their presence.
In the Guardian report, over a hundred planets have been seen so far outside our solar system, most are gas giants and almost all in single-planet solar systems.
Jack Lissauer, a NASA scientist in California said the finding was "the biggest thing in exoplanets since the discovery of 51 Pegasi B, the first exoplanet, back in 1995". Lissauer said one would not expect to find a system where planets could be so close to one another. If the inner five planets were placed within our solar system they would lie between those of the sun's closest planets, Mercury and Venus. New Scientist explains how the Kepler telescope captures periodic dimming in Kepler-11's brightness, created when planets pass between the star and planet.
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