Astronomers discover 'Jupiter 2.0.' Could Earth 2.0 be next?

A planet and star closely resembling Jupiter and our sun have been spotted, leading scientists to believe there could also be an Earth-like planet out there. 

M. Kornmesser/ESO
This is an artist's impression showing a newly discovered Jupiter twin gas giant orbiting the solar twin star, HIP 11915. The planet is of a very similar mass to Jupiter and orbits at the same distance from its star as Jupiter does from the Sun. This, together with HIP 11915's Sun-like composition, hints at the possibility of the system of planets orbiting HIP 11915 bearing a resemblance to our own Solar System, with smaller rocky planets orbiting closer to the host star.

Jupiter has a doppelgänger, and it could help us find a planet identical to Earth.

A Brazilian-led team of scientists, researching sun-like stars in an attempt to find planetary systems similar to our own solar system, have discovered a planet with a very similar mass to Jupiter. What’s more, it orbits a star that looks like our sun, has the same mass, and is even the same age. 

This is not the first Jupiter-sized planet found orbiting a Sun-like star. What sets this discovery apart is how closely it echoes both Jupiter's mass and its distance from its host star, and the similarities between its host star and the Sun.

Most astronomers agree that Jupiter’s strong gravitational influence played a prominent role in the formation of our solar system, and even in allowing life to thrive on Earth. The discovery of "Jupiter 2.0" opens up the possibility that planets very similar to Earth could also exist elsewhere in our galaxy, researchers say. 

"The quest for an Earth 2.0, and for a complete Solar System 2.0, is one of the most exciting endeavors in astronomy," said Jorge Melendez, leader of the study and co-author of a paper that will appear in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, in a statement. "We are thrilled to be part of this cutting-edge research."

Jupiter 2.0 was found using the HARPS instrument, mounted on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The instrument uses the radial velocity method to tease out the slight wobble caused by the gravitational tugging of exoplanets on their parent stars. By deriving the frequency of the wobbles, astronomers are able to calculate a planet’s mass, orbital distance, and period.

"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," said Megan Bedell, study collaborator and 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."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.