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Amateur Astronomers Help Discover New Solar System

Two NZ Amateur Astronomers Help Discover Solar System

By Emily J Kernot

Two amateur New Zealand astronomers have helped co-discover a solar system in the Milky Way galaxy that resembles a scaled down version of our own. It is the first ever solar system of its kind to be discovered with replica Saturn and Jupiter like planets.

“Other planets have been found orbiting stars in the Milky Way but none that are a mini version of our own,” says Jennie McCormick, one of the astronomers involved.

Jennie McCormick, one of the astronomers involved in discovering the new solar system.
Click to enlarge

The discovery, named OGLE-2006-BLG-109, occurred when a chance alignment between two stars was detected by Ohio State University’s astronomy department, MicroFUN.

MicroFUN’s global team of astronomers use a technique called gravitational microlensing to detect the presence of planets orbiting around stars.

During this event they gathered gather data over a 10 day period.

Jennie McCormick and Dr Grant Christie, both located in Auckland, were the only amateur astronomers on the team.

Professor Scott Gaudi of Ohio State University believes that in this particular solar system there could still be smaller, undetected planets closer to the host star.

This discovery shows a greater possibility of earth like planets being discovered and suggests that solar systems like our own are common.

Christie says the alignment of these two stars will never happen again. “It was a one in a million chance for it to have happened.”

The solar system is located approximately 5000 light years away towards the centre of the Milky Way.

Emily J Kernot is a third year Communications student, majoring in journalism at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT University).


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