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Journey to a Star Rich with Planets – Part 1
10.06.07
 
Artist concept of exoplanet

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This artist's animation takes us on a journey to 55 Cancri, a star with a family of five known planets – the most planets discovered so far around a star besides our own.

The animation begins on Earth, with a view of the night sky and 55 Cancri (flashing dot), located 41 light-years away in the constellation Cancer. It then zooms through our solar system, passing our asteroids and planets, until finally arriving at the outskirts of 55 Cancri.

The first planet to appear is the farthest out from the star – a giant planet, probably made of gas, with a mass four times that of Jupiter. This planet orbits its star every 14 years, similar to Jupiter's 11.9-year orbit.

As the movie continues, the three inner planets are shown, the closet of which is about 10 to 13 times the mass of Earth with an orbital period of less than three days.

Zooming out, the animation highlights the newest member of the 55 Cancri family – a massive planet, likely made of gas, water and rock, about 45 times the mass of Earth and orbiting the star every 260 days.

The colors of the illustrated planets were chosen to resemble those of our own solar system. Astronomers do not know what the planets look like.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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