Nov 7, 2007

Fifth planet discovered around star 55 Cancri

A new planetary system, like ours? Astronomers have spotted a record-setting fifth planet orbiting the sunlike star 55 Cancri, 41 light-years away in the constellation Cancer. This finding made it the most extensive planetary system yet found outside our own solar system.

In picture: The fifth planet discovered around the sunlike star 55 Cancri lies in the projected habitable zone (green), where water would neither boil nor freeze, in between the system's outermost planet (widest blue ring) and its inner members.

Researchers say the planet, a "mini-Saturn" of about 46 Earth masses, lies fourth out from the star in a large gap between the third and fifth planets, placing it squarely in the estimated habitable zone around the star where water might remain liquid, according to the group's report, accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Although the planet's size implies that it is a ball of hydrogen and helium gas incapable of supporting pools of liquid water, the finding raises the possibility that additional, earthlike planets might be discovered around it. Link


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