Six Exoplanets Are Currently Dancing Around a Star, Scientists Find
Surrounding galaxies are filled with wonders just waiting to be uncovered. Most recently, researchers from the University of St. Andrews discovered that and more. Using the European Space Agency CHEOPS space telescope, they noticed formations over 200 light years away which featured five of six exoplanets linked in perfect harmony around a central star. That means that their orbits are all in sync with no signs of collisions, the Daily Mail reports.
The system of planets, now dubbed TOI-178, formed because of a "resonance." This is a harmony created when the planets' orbits actually attract one another. The astronomers did find this recent sighting to be an odd one, though. While most high-density planets usually appear closer to the sun, the planets in this system include a dense planet (like Earth) next to a "fluffy" planet (about half the weight of Neptune) and then beside a dense Neptune-like planet. The team noted that this information "challenges what we know about how planetary systems form."
These planets also create an 18:nine:six:four:three chain. So, once one planet makes its way around the central star 18 times, the next planet will orbit nine times, and this pattern will continue down the chain. The researchers note that this chain of resonance from TOI-178 is the longest planet system uncovered to date.
"This rare configuration prompted us to search for another planet to complete the chain, and with additional data we were able to confirm the presence of a sixth planet with the orbital period we predicted," Dr. Thomas Wilson of the University of St. Andrews, says. And the system proves even more about how planets can coexist. "The orbits in this system are very well ordered, which tells us that this system has evolved quite gently since its birth," Yann Alibert, a co-author from the University of Bern, adds. "If the system had been significantly disturbed earlier in its life, for example by a giant impact, this fragile configuration of orbits would not have survived."