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Scientists discovered a peculiar planetary system not too far away from the Solar system, a finding that could provide new insights about how planets form and why the Milky Way galaxy favors a specific type of world, the Washington Post reported.
In their paper, an international team of researchers wrote the discovery of six planets orbiting the star HD 110067, which is only 100 light-years away.
They categorized these planets as “sub-Neptunes,” which range between the sizes of Earth and Neptune. They described them as hot and gassy worlds that probably cannot sustain life.
Still, the team explained that the planetary system is unique because the planets’ orbits are locked into a resonance with one another as they course around their parent star.
Close analysis also showed that the HD 110067 system has remained stable since its formation four billion years ago, having experienced no cataclysmic impacts or the close passage of another star in all that time.
The researchers suspect that, judging by their density, these worlds have atmospheres, but further study is needed.
The main mystery that the authors are trying to solve is why are these planets sub-Neptunes – a very common type of world found across the Milky Way.
It remains uncertain if the prevalence of planets in this size range is due to a universal trend, or is influenced by our detection methods.
Finding small, rocky planets similar to Earth, especially those orbiting a stable, mature star like the Sun, is challenging.
“HD 110067 is an immediate astronomical Rosetta stone – offering a key system to help unlock some mysteries of planet formation and evolution,” said co-author Sara Seager.