Solar system with seven planets discovered

Kepler data reveals star with planet system similar to that of the sun

By combing through data from the Kepler spacecraft, astronomers have discovered a seven-planet solar system structured similarly to our own.

NASA/Kepler/Wendy Stenzel

Astronomers may have identified the largest-known solar system outside of our own.

Two independent teams of astronomers report on that the star KIC 11442793 has seven planets, the most found to date orbiting a star other than the sun. The record-setting solar system sits about 2,500 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Draco.

KIC 11442793’s clutch of planets consists of two that are roughly the size of Earth, three super-Earths and two much bigger bodies. Like our own solar system, the smaller planets orbit closer to the star, while the larger planets sit farther out, a rare observation the astronomers argue. Unlike our solar system, the outermost planet of KIC 11442793’s system orbits the star at roughly the distance at which Earth circles the sun, meaning that the seven-planet system is extremely compact.

What also makes this discovery different is that amateur astronomers using data from the Kepler spacecraft helped to identify the seventh planet of KIC 11442793.

photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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