This is an artist’s illustration of the six newly discovered planets circling their star in resonance. Image by Roger Thibaut/NCCR PlanetS
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Chicago said Wednesday they have discovered a six-planet solar system in which the planets circle their star in a rhythmic beat that is precise enough that someone can set music to it.
The star the planets circle around is identified as HD110067. It is about 100 light-years away in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices.
Led by the University of Chicago scientist Rafael Luque, researchers said they believe the system could offer insight into planet formation and evolution. The work was published in the journal Nature.
"This discovery is going to become a benchmark system to study how sub-Neptunes, the most common type of planets outside of the solar system, form, evolve, what are they made of and if they possess the right conditions to support the existence of liquid water in their surfaces," Luque said in a news release.
NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, discovered dips in the star's brightness that indicated planets were passing in front of the star's surface.
Combining data from both TESS and the European Space Agency's CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite, Cheops, a team of researchers analyzed the data and discovered the unique waltz the planets did around the sun.
Researchers said the tight gravitational formation known as "resonance" is rarely found by astronomers even though scientists found numerous stars with planets circling them.
The scientists said the rhythmic resonant orbits appeared to be locked in that they had been doing the same dance since the system formed billions of years ago.
Resonant systems can give astronomers important clues about the formation and subsequent evolution of the planetary system.
"We think only about 1% of all systems stay in resonance, and even fewer show a chain of planets in such configuration," Luque said.
He said HD110067 in that respect is special and will be studied much more.
"It shows us the pristine configuration of a planetary system that has survived untouched," Luque said.