Solar system like ours discovered

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New York, Feb 15 (UNI) Astronomers have discovered a planetary system which they claim looks like the solar system.

The planetary system named OGLE-2006-BLG-109L comprises two planets orbiting a star about half the size of our sun some 5,000 light years away.

One planet is about two-thirds of the mass of Jupiter and another about 90 per cent of the mass of Saturn which orbit a reddish star about half the mass of the Sun, at about half the distances that Jupiter and Saturn circle our own Sun.

The discovery means that our solar system might be more typical of planetary systems across the universe than had been thought, the researchers said.

''It looks like a scale model of our solar system,'' Dr Scott Gaudi of Ohio State University who led the research was quoted by the New York Times as saying.

According to him, warm, rocky planets ''suitable for life'' could exist undetected in the inner parts of the system.

''This could be a true solar system analogue,'' he said.

The results will be published today in the journal Science.

The new discovery was made by a different technique that favours planets more distant from their star. It is based on a trick of Einsteinian gravity called microlensing. If, in the ceaseless shifting of the stars, two stars should become perfectly aligned with the Earth, the gravity of the nearer star can bend and magnify the light from the more distant one, causing it to suddenly get much brighter for a few days.

If the alignment is specially perfect, any big planets attending the nearer star will get into the act, adding their own little bumps to the more distant starlight.

Only six planets, including the new ones, have been discovered by microlensing so far and the Scorpius event was the first in which the alignment of the stars was perfect enough for astronomers to detect more than one planet at once. Their success at doing just that on their first try bodes well for the future, astronomers say.

Alan Boss, a theorist at the Carnegie Institution of Washinton, said: ''The fact that these are hard to detect by microlensing means there must be a good number of them.'' UNI XC ARB DB1048

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