NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered a planet that is ‘nearly identical’ to Jupiter circling a star 17,000 light-years away from Earth.
According to researchers in Manchester, the exoplanet, K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb, is nearly identical to Jupiter in terms of mass and distance from its star.
K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb is 420 million miles away from its star, while Jupiter is 462 million miles away.
Meanwhile, the mass of K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb is 1.1 times that of Jupiter, while the star it circles have a mass of about 60% that of our sun.
The planet and its star are located in the constellation Sagittarius, which encompasses the area surrounding our Milky Way galaxy’s revolving center, the Galactic Centre.
The system is twice as far away as any ever discovered by Kepler, which discovered over 2,700 verified planets before shutting down in 2018.
A multinational team of astrophysicists led by the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre completed a new study to describe the discovery.
‘To see the effect at all requires almost perfect alignment between the foreground planetary system and a background star’, said Dr. Eamonn Kerins at Jodrell Bank.
‘The chance that a background star is affected this way by a planet is tens to hundreds of millions to one against.
‘But there are hundreds of millions of stars towards the center of our galaxy. So Kepler just sat and watched them for three months.
‘It is basically Jupiter’s identical twin in terms of its mass and its position from its sun, which is about 60 per cent of the mass of our own Sun.’
According to Dr. Kerins, K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb, like Jupiter, is expected to be gaseous rather than rocky.
Jupiter takes around 12 Earth years to complete one orbit around the Sun (a year in Jovian time) (4,333 Earth days).
Similarly, K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb is expected to orbit its star in 13 Earth years, however, this is simply an estimate based on “a single image” from Kepler, according to Dr. Kerins.
He told MailOnline, ‘We don’t actually see it orbit.’ ‘There is a margin of error, so it might be as little as 11 years or as much as 21 years.’
Apart from K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb, the research team has no idea if there are any other planets in this solar system.