Yes, it’s true: Jupiter has a twin brother, and it’s been found not that far away, in this same galaxy as ours. It’s situated in roughly the same orbit around its star, HIP 11915, as Jupiter around the Sun. And both stars are practically identical in size, as well as in age. Striking similarities, no?
The questions that the astronomers now tackle are whether around that same star there is a complete solar system which could contain an Earth-like planet. The current estimations indicate that it is very likely, since for our own solar system, Jupiter has played a key role in allowing life on Earth to bloom.
A team from the ESO (the European Southern Observatory) led an experiment in Chile, at La Silla Observatory using its very powerful super-telescope. The leader of the research crew, Jorge Melendez, has adequately dubbed the newfound system as Solar System 2.0, as well as the new Jupiter being Jupiter 2.0. But is there and Earth 2.0?
A while back, speculations arose about an exoplanet said to closely resemble Earth. It was dubbed Kepler 186 f. Yet, the researchers behind this latest discovery say that it is far more likely for an Earth-like planet to actually exist in the HiP 11915 system. And if it does, it’s also much more likely that it contains highly developed forms of life.
Why this? Well, the key to understanding how a gas giant so unusually far from its star helps life on other planets is to look at our very own planetary neighborhood.
A theory was proposed by a report posted earlier this year on Space.com which suggests that Jupiter was invaluable to the formation of life on Earth. The report stated that due to is enormous size and relatively small gravitational pull, our own Jupiter was left swinging around the Solar System, in its very early stages. Through this process, Jupiter attracted much of the early debris and objects with catastrophic capabilities, before settling nicely in the far side of the system, being drawn outwards by Saturn’s gravitational pull.
Effectively, Jupiter swept the system of baddies, allowing life on Earth to not be so interrupted by extinctions like those cause by asteroids’ impact. That is essentially what the scientists hope to find by looking further in the direction of HIP 11915 in search for exoplanets.
The researchers conclude that this exciting discovery points to the fact that there may well be other solar systems closely resembling ours out there, and also to the likelihood of us finding alien life in the far future. The exoplanets and systems found now by astronomers could be key targets for space exploration.
Today Pluto, tomorrow the Universe!
Image source: cdn.eso.org