Scientists have taken the first direct picture of a solar system that is strikingly similar to our own. The new image shows two huge exoplanets orbiting a young, sun-like star about 300 light-years away. It looks more like a family portrait.
The image was captured with the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory, which is located in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The newly discovered solar system will aid astronomers in better understanding how our solar system developed and evolved. The has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The star, identified as TYC 8998-760-1 and found in the Southern constellation Musca, is only 17 million years old, making it a “very young version of our own sun,” according to researchers. In comparison, the sun is 4.6 billion years old.
Both planets orbiting the star, named TYC 8998-760-1b and TYC 8998-760-1c, are considered to be gas giants, meaning they are mostly made up of hydrogen and helium. They are, however, much further away from their host star than our gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, at 160 and 320 times the Earth-sun distances, respectively. They’re also a lot heavier than our solar system’s gas giants.
The two planets, which appear as two bright points of light in the photograph, are seen orbiting their parent star in the top left corner. They still light brightly enough to be observed from Earth since they formed so recently.
It’s the first time astronomers have discovered multiple planets around a star comparable to our sun. Only two other systems like ours have ever been discovered, both with stars that are completely different from ours.a