What many people don't realize is that we humans can thank Jupiter that we're here. The huge planet protects the rest of the planets in our solar system by absorbing many of the blows that come our way from comets and asteroids. Asteroids get past it occasionally?like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs--but these extinction events would have happened much more often if it wasn't for our protector Jupiter.
Now scientists have found another scientists have found a planetary system that looks similar to ours, complete with a huge protector planet. This means there could be an Earth-like planet orbiting a star in an inner orbit.
The star system is known as 55 Cancri and his about 41 light years away. Now that they've found it, astronomers will start looking for planets like Earth. "This planetary system will be the best candidate for direct pictures when the Terrestrial Planet Finder is launched later this decade," says Debra Fischer of the University of California, referring to NASA's next generation of space telescopes.
The newly discovered solar system has a huge planet that takes about 13 years to revolve around its parent star, compared with Jupiter?s journey of almost 12 years around our sun.The new planet is about four times the mass of Jupiter and has an elongated orbit. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution says, "We haven't found an exact solar system analog, which would have a circular orbit and a mass closer to that of Jupiter. But this shows we are getting close."
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