Kepler-223 System’s Four Planets may reveal secret of Planet Formation

The Kepler-223 star system’s four planets apparently have slight in common with our solar system’s planets of the present time.

However, a latest study used data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope and suggested a probable commonality in the remote past. The Kepler-223 planets used to orbit their star in the same configuration that the planets Saturn, Uranus, Jupiter, and Neptune probably have had in the initial stages of our solar system, prior to their migration into their present locations.

The study’s lead author, Sean Mills, a graduate student in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago in Illinois, said, “Exactly how and where planets form is an outstanding question in planetary science. Our work essentially tests a model for planet formation for a type of planet we don’t have in our solar system”.

The puffy, gaseous planets that orbit Kepler-223, all of which are very huge in comparison to Earth, orbit near to their star. Mills said that this was the reason why a huge debate is on over their formation, how they made it there and why doesn’t our solar system include any analogous planet.

With the help of data from Kepler, its mission is now called K2, Mills and his collaborators studied how the four planets hinder the light of their stars and alter each other’s orbits. This information shed some light over the size and masses of the planets.

They carried out numerical simulations of planetary migration that is responsible for this system’s present architecture, quite like the migration supposed for the gas giants of the solar system. The calculation shave been explained in the May 11 Advance Online edition of Nature.

Our solar system’s orbital configuration has apparently evolved since the time it took birth 4.6 billion years back. However, the four known planets of the quite aged Kepler-223 system have remained in a single orbital configuration for quite longer time.

“We can find all these new places that may become habitable worlds,” Kaltenegger said, in the dim, red glow of a slow-burning dwarf star, or on once-frozen planets thawed by a rapidly expanding red giant. Nearly two dozen such potentially life-sustaining suns exist right in our own galactic back yard, she and Ramirez found. And they want scientists to start taking a closer look at them,” according to a news report published by Gadgets News.

Besides, stars like our Sun age rapidly once they evolve into red dwarfs, at least relative to the timescale at which life evolves. The newly-warmed worlds would only get around half a billion years in the habitable zone before the zone shifted again – too short a time frame for life to take hold, most scientists say. Most scientists think that it took nearly 1 billion years for the first life to appear on Earth. Even the earliest, most radical estimates of life’s origins place the starting point at about a half-billion years after Earth’s birth.

According to a story published on the topic by Forbes News, “When a star ages and brightens, the habitable zone moves outward and you’re basically giving a second wind to a planetary system,” said Ramses M. Ramirez, research associate at Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute and lead author of the study, in a statement. “Currently objects in these outer regions are frozen in our own solar system, like Europa and Enceladus – moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn.”

“Long after our own plain yellow sun expands to become a red giant star and turns Earth into a sizzling hot wasteland, there are still regions in our solar system – and other solar systems as well – where life might thrive,” added co-author Lisa Kaltenegger, an associate professor of astronomy and director of the Sagan Institute.

A report published in Space News revealed, “In about 7.5 billion years, the sun will have begun its march to the grave and will start expanding. Eventually it will swell to about 200 times its current size. It will swallow Mercury and Venus, and make Earth uninhabitable. But currently frigid locations in the solar system, like the icy moons of Saturn and Jupiter, might become just the right temperature for life.”

“People keep saying, ‘When our sun becomes a big hot star, then we have to move to Mars or other places.’ But really for the first time, we have actually calculated where that place is and when,” she said. “If you want to go planet-hopping, you’ll want to know when you want to be where, and that’s basically what we figured out.” “This is the first time where we link the model of the star to the model of the planet and see what it does,” she said. “The devil is really in the details. The first stabs at it were great work because the idea got started, but it’s a lot of work to do, and [Ramirez] actually hunkered down and did it.”

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