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Journey to a Star Rich with Planets – Part 2
11.06.07
 
Artist concept of exoplanet

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This artist's animation begins by highlighting 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. This planet is the fourth out from the star, and lies in the system's habitable zone (green). A habitable zone is the place around a star where liquid water would persist. Though the newest planet probably has a thick gaseous envelope, astronomers speculate that it could have one or more moons. In our own solar system, moons are common, so it seems likely that they also orbit planets in other solar systems. If such moons do exist, and if they are as large as Mars or Earth, astronomers speculate that they would retain atmospheres and surface liquid water that might make interesting environments for the development of life.

The animation ends with a comparison between 55 Cancri and our solar system.

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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