New Planetary System

New planet has a mass 45 times that of Earth

by Liz Olson
Planets

Related Links

In 2007, scientists announced that they found five planets circling a star 41 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Cancer. It is the most extensive planetary system ever discovered and one that resembles our solar system. The first planet was detected in 1996 orbiting its star called 55 Cancri at a distance of 500 million miles.

Until 2007, there were four known planets orbiting 55 Cancri. A fifth planet was detected early in 2007 with a mass 45 times that of Earth. It orbits its star in 260 days at a distance of 70 million miles, which is roughly the distance of Venus from the Sun. The new planet may also have rocky moons orbiting it, but none have yet been spotted. It is unlikely that the moons could harbor life even if they do exist.

Although the newest addition to 55 Cancri’s solar system is located in the so-called habitable zone warm enough for liquid water, it is thought to resemble Saturn or Neptune with an environment uninhabitable for life.

Professor Debra Fischer of San Francisco State University led the team that reported this new planetary system. With the discovery, Prof. Fischer and her team have shown that our solar system is not unique in our universe, and with time and more data, it is possible for astronomers to find more planets that resemble Earth. In the last decade alone, 250 planets have been discovered orbiting around stars.

Scientists detect planets using a wobble technique that monitors the star’s light for variations that could be induced by the gravitational pull of orbiting planets. At first, scientists could only identify Jupiter-size planets, but with technological improvements they can now find planets only a few times the size of Earth.

There is an interesting 450 million mile gap between the new planet and the outermost planet. A similar gap exists in our solar system between Jupiter and Mars due to the disruptive effects of Jovian gravity on planetary formation. So far no other planets have been detected, but there is a chance that other planets could exist in the new planetary system’s gap. We can be certain astronomers will be closely monitoring the gap in the future.

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Did you know?
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover began the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” program in March 1950.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Top 10 Group Halloween Costumes for Families
These store-bought and Pinterest-inspired Halloween costume ideas for groups are the perfect way to show off your creative side at your Halloween party or while trick-or-treating.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

12 Spine-Tingling Halloween Movies for Teens
Are you looking for a movie with just a little bit of spook-factor for your teen? Check out these 12 spine-tingling Halloween movies!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!