New planetary system of 7 Super-Earths discovered

Move over TRAPPIST-1 – there’s an exciting new planetary system in town. Meet Kepler-385, home to seven Super-Earths that were just discovered in existing data.

Located about 4,670 light-years from Earth is a star named Kepler-385, which is about 10% bigger and slightly hotter than our Sun. It and its first three planets were discovered in 2014 by the Kepler space telescope, but a new catalog has revealed four more worlds circling the star, meaning Kepler-385 joins a very exclusive club of crowded multi-planet systems similar to our own neighborhood.

But unlike the mixed bag of planet types we see in our solar system, the seven worlds of Kepler-385 are all the same kind, and it’s one we don’t have here – Super-Earths. As the name suggests, these are planets that are bigger than our homeworld, but smaller than Neptune. It’s thought that they can take on characteristics of either of these namesakes too – they might be rocky planets with thin atmospheres and even potentially habitable, or they could be smothered under thick, icy atmospheres.

With the new analysis, astronomers believe that the two innermost planets, known as Kepler-385 b and c, are only slightly bigger than Earth, with rocky surfaces and by thin atmospheres. The other five planets are each about twice the size of Earth, and believed to be covered in thick atmospheres. All are fairly close to the star and would be bathed in far more radiation than we receive from the Sun.

While Kepler’s extended mission ended in 2018, the telescope gathered so much data that scientists are still analyzing it. This new catalog was focused on probing deeper into existing systems, revealing intriguing new details about distant worlds.

Kepler-385 is one of only a handful of systems known to contain six or more planets. The most famous would be TRAPPIST-1, a system of seven Earth-sized planets a mere 40 light-years from Earth.

The new catalog is due to be published in The Journal of Planetary Science. For an interesting way to understand the Kepler-385 system, check out the sonification of their orbits in the video below.

The Sounds of a New Planetary System (NASA Data Sonification)

Source: NASA

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