Four brand new planets have been found orbiting a yellow parent star by viewers of ABC’s Stargazing Live.
The newly discovered system is in the constellation of Aquarius 600-light years away and the planets are each between two and three times the size of Earth.
Professor Brian Cox says, “I couldn’t be more excited about these discoveries - in the seven years I’ve been making Stargazing Live this is the most significant scientific discovery we’ve made. The results are a wonderful and intriguing surprise.”
It is a new solar system, and one that scientists didn’t know existed until today.
Viewed from the outermost planet, the other planets would be easily visible to the naked eye, and would make a spectacular sight. Future travellers would see the neighbouring planets hanging in the sky, one bigger than the Full Moon appears from Earth.
“It’s wonderful that Stargazing Live viewers in Australia have made such an interesting discovery,” said Professor Chris Lintott, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Oxford.
“The discovery of such an unusual system, with four planets crammed together, will help us test our ideas about how planets are made – a question which has profound implications for understanding the history of our own Earth.”
More than ten thousand viewers from all around Australia logged on to abc.net.au/stargazing to help analyse the data that identified the new solar system.
The discovery was made using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, in collaboration with the Zooniverse project and with scientists at the University of California Santa Cruz and at Caltech.
Michelle Guthrie, Managing Director said: "This incredible discovery showcases the pivotal role the ABC plays in building interest in and engagement with science issues – amongst not just Australia's scientific community, but our everyday citizen scientists.
“The breadth of content across the week on TV, Radio, iview and online, complementing this high quality and highly engaging TV program is strong evidence that ABC's science programming is of both wide and specialist appeal, educating and informing Australians about scientific news, research and innovations."
Those inspired by the hunt can still join in at exoplanetexplorers.org
Stargazing Live and Back to Earth: Stargazing Live is available to watch on ABC iview
Stargazing Live is based on a format devised by the BBC, licensed by BBC Worldwide and produced by FremantleMedia Australia for the ABC.