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A new planetary system discovered

 

Narrator:           This is Science Today. Astronomers were amazed to learn about a planetary system discovered by NASA's Kepler space telescope. Jonathan Fortney, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was part of a team that analyzed the telescope's findings.

Fortney:            What we've discovered is a new planetary system of six, very closely packed planets that orbit very close to their parent star, within the orbit of Venus. This is an entirely new kind of planetary system. 

Narrator:           Fortney explains that the Kepler space telescope detects planets that pass in front of their host star, which causes changes in brightness of the star and that can be measured to determine the size and mass of the planets.

Fortney:            So we detect the planets as they transit in front of their parent star, they pass right in front of the star and block out a small part of their star's light. The transit technique for finding planets was first used about 10 years ago and so far it's found about a hundred planets, but with the Kepler telescope, we're now approaching over 1,200 candidate planets.

Narrator:           For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.