Mysteries of nearby planetary system’s dynamics solved

Mysteries of one of the most fascinating nearby planetary systems now have been solved, report authors of a scientific paper to be published by the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in its early online edition on 22 April 2014. The study, which presents the first viable model for the planetary system orbiting one the first stars discovered to have planets—the star named 55 Cancri—was led by Penn State University graduate student Benjamin Nelson in collaboration with faculty at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State and five astronomers at other institutions in the United States and Germany.

Numerous studies since 2002 had failed to determine a plausible model for the masses and orbits of two giant planets located closer to 55 Cancri than Mercury is to our Sun. Astronomers had struggled to understand how these massive planets orbiting so close to their star could avoid a catastrophe such as one planet being flung into the star, or the two planets colliding with each other. Now, the new study led by Penn State has combined thousands of observations with new statistical and computational techniques to measure the planets’ properties more accurately, revealing that their particular masses and orbits are preventing the system from self-destructing anytime soon. More here Mysteries of nearby planetary system’s dynamics solved.

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