New Study Finds Earth-Like Planets Orbiting Ancient Stars Twice As Old As The Sun

Planet orbiting star, courtesy of NASA

Some of the most compelling discoveries in space involve finding earth-like planets that could potentially harbor life as old (or older) than the human race. An exciting new study from Aarhus University recently revealed that some of the oldest stars ever found are actually orbited by these earth-like planets.

According to Science Daily, a study that will soon be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society examined 33 Kepler stars that exhibit solar-like oscillations. Observation of the stars with high precision telescopes revealed that even stars older than 11 billion years have earth-like planets. Our own sun is only about 4.57 billion years old.

A team of international astronomers worked together to measure the size, density, mass, distance, and age of 33 stars to collect a more comprehensive set of data on distant stars than any astronomers have before.

“Our team has determined ages for individual host stars before with similar levels of accuracy, but this constitutes the best characterised set of exoplanet host stars currently available,” said lead author Victor Silva Aguirre from the Stellar Astrophysics Centre.

Surprisingly, all of the ancient stars are orbited by earth-like planets. This means that there are planets in our own galaxy that have formed long before Earth that contain the necessary conditions for life. With an extra six billion years tacked onto their lifespan, it’s exciting to imagine what kinds of atmosphere or ecosystem might have evolved.

According to the Daily Galaxy, Silva Aguirre explained why the discovery of such old earth-like planets is significant, and what it might mean for finding life beyond earth.

“One of the biggest questions in astrophysics is: does life exists beyond earth? To even begin answering this, we need to know how many planets like ours exist out there, and when they formed… [The] formation of exoplanets similar in size to earth has occurred throughout the history of our Galaxy (and is still taking place!). Actually some of these planets were of the same age as the Earth is now, at the time when the Earth itself formed. This in itself is a remarkable finding.”

The planets were found by measuring the slight variations in the intensity of the starlight. Changes in the solar-oscillations can inform astronomers about what celestial bodies are circling the star and how close it is orbiting. A certain distance from the star indicates the famous “Goldilocks zone,” which has the potential to create earth-like planets.

What do you think about the newly discovered earth-like planets? Do you think life could have formed on an earth-like planet that was receiving energy from a star for more than twice as long as the Earth?

For more Inquisitr science, read about the new research that could explain the origin of life.

[Image credit: NASA]