A team of international astronomers has discovered 60 new planets orbiting stars close to Earth’s solar system, a study set to be published in The Astronomical Journal reports.
These new findings include a rocky “super-Earth,” as well as evidence of an additional 54 planets that brings the potential discovery to 114 new worlds in all. Almost all the bodies were found orbiting stars between 20 and 300 light years from Earth.
Researchers analyzed observations captured over 20 years by U.S. astronomers using the Keck-I telescope in Hawaii as part of the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey. During that time, scientists compiled nearly 61,000 observations on 1,600 stars.
While the sheer number is impressive, researchers are particularly interested in a hot world known as Gliese 411b, which orbits the star Gliese 411. The planet is a super-Earth — meaning it has more mass than Earth but much less that larger worlds like Jupiter — that is located 8 light years from Earth in the fourth-nearest star system to the Sun. However, despite its classification, the world is too hot for life to exist.
The new findings mark a large discovery for astronomers and give a better picture of what type of bodies exist in the universe around our galaxy.
“Over the recent years it has been established as a scientific fact that there are more planets in the Universe than there are stars,” Dr. Mikko Tuomi from University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics, told Fox News. “This means that virtually every star has a planet, or several of them, orbiting it. Our discovery of dozens of new nearby planets highlights this fact. But it also does more. We are now moving on from simply discovering these worlds.”
The findings could set the groundwork for an observational roadmap that could help in the development of future giant telescopes. This would allow better imaging of newly found worlds and could potentially shed light on how the celestial bodies first came to be.
“It is fascinating to think that when we look at the nearest stars, all of them appear to have planets orbiting them. This is something astronomers were not convinced about, even as little as five years ago,” Tuomi added, according to The Christian Science Monitor. “These new planets also help us better understand the formation process of planetary systems and provide interesting targets for future efforts to image the planets directly.”