Jupiter doppelganger discovery could mean Earth 2.0 exists…

16 Jul 2015

A bunch of astronomers have discovered what may be Jupiter’s doppelganger twin, orbiting a sun remarkably similar to ours, from the same distance as in our solar system.

By using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) telescope, the team spotted the planet orbiting HIP 11915, a star roughly the same size and age of our sun.

Current theories surrounding the formation of our solar system place Jupiter right at the centre of things, ironically, with its gravitational pull in the early days supposedly helping to shape what we see now.

Future Human

Thus, if an identical planet, orbiting an identical sun, is found, then it could lead us to finding a double for Earth.

Jupiter double - ESO 3.6-metre telescope

ESO 3.6-metre telescope in Chile – via Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO

“The quest for an Earth 2.0, and for a complete solar system 2.0, is one of the most exciting endeavours in astronomy,” said co-author of this paper, Jorge Melendez.

“We are thrilled to be part of this cutting-edge research, made possible by the observational facilities provided by ESO.”

Jupiter discovery could be key

So far, when surveying the skies, it’s giant gaseous planets that we’ve spotted, with rocky, smaller ones similar to Earth harder to find.

This discovery could change that, though, as researchers now have a location to pour their efforts into. These efforts are considerable when you consider the instruments available to ESO (Click the below image to see full size).

Jupiter discovery Panorama of La Silla Observatory - via ESO/B. Tafreshi

Panorama of La Silla Observatory – via ESO/B. Tafreshi

The Brazilian-led researchers used HARPS, a planet-hunting instrument, to track down the new planet that is the most accurate analogue yet for our sun and our Jupiter.

“After two decades of hunting for exoplanets, we are finally beginning to see long-period gas giant planets similar to those in our own solar system thanks to the long-term stability of planet-hunting instruments like HARPS,” says Megan Bedell, lead author of the paper.

“This discovery is, in every respect, an exciting sign that other solar systems may be out there waiting to be discovered.”

Main image via ESO/CC BY 4.0/Wikimedia Commons

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic