Star KOI-500: Astronomers Discover Most Tightly Packed Solar System Ever
Astronomers have discovered star KOI-500 using the Kepler space observatory. The star system is the most tightly packed that scientists have discovered to date, with all five planets stuffed into a region just 1/12 the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
The system’s five exoplanets have orbital periods of 1.0, 3.1, 4.6, 7.1, and 9.5 Earth days, reports Space.com. The diameters of the planets surrounding star KOI-500 have diameters ranging from 1.3 to 2.6 times that of Earth.
The star at the center of the tightly packed solar system is about four times the mass of our sun with a diameter about three-quarters its size.
Astronomers believe that KOI-500 is about a billion years old, which is less than a quarter the age of our sun. It is located about 1,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra.
The star’s name, KOI, stands for “Kepler Object of Interest,” and means that the star is observed by the Kepler Space Observatory and has been found to have a periodic dimming. Periodic dimming is a characteristic of objects orbiting the star and eclipsing it on a regular basis.
According to Wired, star KOI-500 and its solar system were discovered by Darin Ragozzine, a planetary scientist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, along with his team.
The planetary system is unique, because four planets is the largest number of bodies scientists have found that exist in resonance with each other. The astronomers believe that it may have come about because of how the planets migrated in toward star KOI-500.
Astronomers believe that the planets slowly spiraled in while the system formed out of planetary dust until it reached a point of equilibrium. Star KOI-500 is not the first unique find made by the Kepler program; yesterday the program announced that an amateur astronomer found a planet orbiting a binary star system that has another pair of stars orbiting around the three bodies.