MONDAY, AUGUST 15: Despite the rapid pace of technology these days, it was just 10 years ago that astronomers first reported discovery of a nearby solar system that functions like our own. The team of astronomers located a planet approximately the size of Jupiter in a circular orbit around a star in the Big Dipper, known as 47 Ursae Majoris. (The National Science Foundation published a press release.) In distance from the star, astronomers estimate the planet to be somewhere between Mars and Jupiter in our solar system; a second planet also orbits the star, leaving researchers to wonder if any smaller planets lie between the two. Although smaller planets aren’t visible from Earth, scientists agree they would fall into a “habitable zone,” where water remains liquid.
The rare find has scientists intrigued, since circular orbits are rare in outer space. Circular orbits not only make it possible for smaller planets like Earth to stay in a habitable zone, but for several planets to orbit the same star. The 47 Ursae Majoris star is estimated at 51 light years from Earth.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.