Record-Setting Star

More than two decades of research has resulted in a major find for astronomy — a star with a record number of planets, and according to experts, it’s just the beginning.

“The chance of our planet being the only one seems vanishingly small,” John Brewer, an astronomy graduate student at San Francisco State University in California, told Ivanhoe.

In the constellation of cancer, astronomer Debra Fisher and her students discovered that a star called 55 Cancri has something no other star outside of our solar system has — five planets orbiting it. That’s a record!

“Just finding a system that is so full of planets tells us that planet formation is easy,” Debra Fischer, astronomer at San Francisco State University, told Ivanhoe.

For students, sharing in a discovery puts stars in their eyes.

“Although you can learn from books, the cutting edge research that’s being done now, the new research isn’t in the books,” Brewer explained. “It’s with the research scientists that are performing the studies.”

According to Fischer, this fifth planet is special because it orbits at what’s called the “goldilocks” distance, where the temperature isn’t too hot or too cold to support liquid water, a key characteristic for life.

“The theorists are predicting that there are still other planets around 55 Cancri,” Fischer said, “so we’re going to keep looking for them there.”

This is a quest 41 light years from Earth.

One planet can take 14 years to orbit around a star, so discovering planet number six may take a while, but these students will soon be the researches that keep looking.


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