David Whitehouse writes in bbcnews.com that astronomers have found a planetary system that's similar to ours, with a big, Jupiter-like planet circling a Sun-like star. Jupiter absorbs most of the meteor impacts that come our way, and is one of the reasons life can exist on the Earth. Of the more than 100 planetary systems we know about, this is the one that is closest to our own.
Although astronomers have only seen the largest orbiting planet so far, they think it's likely that there are smaller planets, like ours, in the inner orbits. The solar system is 95 light-years away, which is close in astrological terms. This means that if we could travel at the speed of light, we'd reach it in about 100 years.
Before we had telescopes powerful enough to see other solar systems, we predicted that most of them would look like ours, but it hasn't turned out that way. Solar systems are extremely diverse, and many of them don't have habitable planets. Astronomer Hugh Jones says, "This is the closest we have yet got to a real Solar System-like planet, and advances our search for systems that are even more like our own."
Is there any evidence that life on Earth came from another planet?
To see how the newly-discovered solar system compares with ours, click here.
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