Super-Ancient Solar System Sparks New Thinking About Search For Alien Life

kepler 444

Since it was launched in 2009, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope has identified more than 1,000 exoplanets and almost 4,200 exoplanet “candidates.” It’s even found entire solar systems–but never one like the system it just identified some 117 light-years from Earth.

The newfound solar system consists of five rocky, Earth-sized planets circling a star called Kepler-444, which–at 11.2 million years of age–is more than twice as old as the Sun.

Astronomers say the Kepler-444 system may help scientists pinpoint when Earth-like planets first started forming, and may have important implications for the possibility of alien life.

“There are far-reaching implications for this discovery,” Dr. Tiago Campante, a research fellow at the University of Birmingham and one of the astronomers who helped discover the new system, said in a written statement. “We now know that Earth-sized planets have formed throughout most of the Universe’s 13.8-billion-year history, which could provide scope for the existence of ancient life in the Galaxy.”

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Artist’s conception of Kepler-444, which hosts five Earth-sized planets in compact orbits. The planets were detected from the dimming that occurs when they transit in front of their parent star, as shown here.

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