Scientists have spotted the oldest planetary system ever found. This is the first known star with close-to-Earth-size planets ever found that dates back to a time so early in the universe’s history. The scientists say that the ancient star and the five small planets orbiting it are approximately 11.2 billion years old, making it almost two and a half times older than our solar system.
According to ABC News, the newly discovered solar system makes our solar system look like a baby. Clocking in at an astonishing 11.2 billion years old, the ancient solar system is the oldest known planetary system ever to be found. The system features an ancient star surrounded by at least five near-Earth sized rocky planets. To compare, the solar system is almost as old as the universe itself, having been created roughly just 2.6 billion years after the Big Bang, which occurred approximately 14.8 billion years ago.
The report notes that though the planets are “near-Earth” sized, all five are actually smaller than Earth. The largest rocky planet in the ancient solar system is about the size of Venus and the smallest just bigger than Mercury. For those wondering if life may be possible in this ancient solar system, the prospects are not likely. The scientists note that the planets orbit their star in less than 10 days and are less than one-tenth the distance of the sun to Earth. Therefore, the rocky planets are not in the “habitable zone” of their star.
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t implications that can be drawn about life in our galaxy from this ancient solar system. In fact, Lead researcher Tiago Campante of the University of Birmingham in England, claims that the knowledge gleaned “could provide scope for the existence of ancient life in the galaxy.” Daniel Huber from the University of Sydney also notes the importance of such an ancient find.
“We’ve never seen anything like this — it is such an old star and the large number of small planets make it very special. It is extraordinary that such an ancient system of terrestrial-sized planets formed when the universe was just starting out, at a fifth its current age.”
The L.A. Times reports that the find demonstrates to astronomers and those searching for life somewhere in our vast universe, that “old system planets are possible.” This will pave the way for researchers to look for even more ancient solar systems and potentially find an additional source of life as we know it. With solar systems created at the dawn of the Universe, if a solar system were to have existed “and if those planets are in the habitable zone, then it is possible we could have old life too.”
The ancient star was found with the NASA’s Kepler spacecraft and has been named Kepler-444.