Six new planets clustered around a sun-like star are discovered by Kepler space telescope of NASA. These odd planetary bodies have been named as mini-Neptunes by astronomers. Five of these new planets are in a closer vicinity to their parent star; closer than Mercury is to the sun. The sixth one lies at a distance; that would fit inside the orbit of Venus.
“This is the most closely packed known planetary system,” said study co-author Jonathan Fortney, an astronomer with the Lick Observatory at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The newly discovered planets are smaller in size from around 2 to 4.5 times the radius of the earth. They appear to be made of gases because of their lightweight. Their densities indicate that 4 of them have dense atmospheres of hydrogen and helium around them.
Two planets seem to have contents of water with a thin skin of hydrogen and helium in the atmosphere. These planets are closer to the parent star.
“Finding so many planets around the same star and being able to calculate their properties is a scientific boon”, Fortney said. Astronomers can study worlds that were formed together to get a better understanding of planetary transformations, just like paleontologists work with fossils.
“We can do comparative science and … we can think about how the evolution of the planets has diverged over time,” he said.