A recent discovery has left the world in awe. Yet again, we are left spellbound by the beauty of the universe. Scientists have found the oldest known solar system in the galaxy, at least one of them anyway. Kepler 444, orbited by 5 planets, seems to have been created around the dawn of time, about 11.2 billion years ago. Compared to our young solar system, born around 4 billion years ago, this planetary system is ancient. With this knowledge, we can conclude that stars were forming into planets at least 7 billion years before we existed. Wow, feeling a bit younger now, huh. 🙂
Another interesting fact about this planetary system is that it is only 117 light years away from us. We can actually see the system when looking through binoculars. Although 117 light years seems quite far, it is much younger than systems we have already been observing.
The lead author of a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, Tiago Campante, explains this information in more detail.
The main attraction, Kepler 444, is 25% cooler and a little smaller than our sun. This dwarf star, located in the star system Cygnus, is orbited by several other dwarf stars creating a triple star system. The five planets which orbit Kepler 444 are extremely rocky and are nowhere near the habitable zone of existence. Imagine how close Mercury is from our sun – these planets are much closer than that! They are also small planets which range in size from 0.403-0.741 times the size of the earth.
How did this happen so soon?
Considering this solar system was created near the dawn of time, it is amazing how fast solid rock formed. In the beginning, most elements were hydrogen and helium – no solid carbons included. It appears, however, that iron and other carbons formed extremely early and released more elements as the planets died. It is remarkable, really.
Steve Kawler of Iowa State University says “These are very old stars. They were formed in the first generation of the universe!”
How do we know the age of star systems?
The only way to correctly establish the age of a planetary system is to implement astroseismology. This is the process of gauging sound waves from the vibration of stars. Every change in vibration provided detailed information which could be translated into age, mass and density. As the planet moved to block sight of the star, size could also be detected. Information about surface gravity could be understood through observation of sound waves as well.
Although this system is uninhabitable, it still plays an important part in understanding life in the universe. It is very possible that Kepler 444 once cradled life, maybe even more intelligent than ours. This is left to be seen. One thing is for certain, we have found yet another irresistible mystery of space. Let’s see what else we can find, shall we.