Ancient twin solar system discovered, twice as old as our own

28 Jan 2015

Kepler-444 and its five orbiting planets. Image via Tiago Campante/Peter Devine

A solar system has been discovered that draws many similarities with our own, the difference being, this one is the oldest one ever discovered at 11.2bn-years-old.

This newly-discovered solar system has very similar characteristics with our own in that it has a star at its centre similar in size and density as our sun, and has a series of orbiting planets.

According to the researchers from Britain and Australia, this confirms that planets are not a relatively new phenomenon, as far as the passing of time in space goes, but have in fact existed from the universe’s earliest days.

Publishing their findings in the Astrophysical Journal, the researchers have name this ancient sun Kepler-444, while they have also been able to confirm the existence of five orbiting planets that vary in sizes similar to Mercury and Venus.

In comparison, our own solar system is considered relatively youthful compared with its older, distant twin with it being believed to be at least 4.5bn-years-old.

To get their findings, the team used the latest advancements in asteroseismology to measure the oscillations of Kepler-444 that can determine its diameter, mass and age, all from monitoring the changes in the star’s pulses.

According to Dr Tiago Campante, the research leader from the University of Birmingham, the discovery of this ancient star system gives more credence to the possibility of extra-terrestrial life.

“We now know that Earth-sized planets have formed throughout most of the Universe’s 13.8bn-year history, which could provide scope for the existence of ancient life in the galaxy,” he said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic