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An ancient extrasolar system with five sub-Earth-size planets

Oct. 29 - 14:30 - 2014

SPEAKER: Tiago Campante (University of Birmingham)

ABSTRACT: The chemical composition of stars hosting small exoplanets (with radii less than four Earth radii) appears to be more diverse than that of gas-giant hosts, which tend to be metal-rich. This implies that small, including Earth-size, planets may have readily formed at earlier epochs in the Universe's history when metals were more scarce. We report Kepler spacecraft observations of KOI-3158, a metal-poor Sun-like star from the old population of the Galactic thick disk, which hosts five planets with sizes between those of Mercury and Venus. We used asteroseismology to directly measure a precise age of 11.2\pm1.0 billion years for the host star, indicating that KOI-3158 formed when the Universe was less than 20% of its current age and making it the oldest known system of terrestrial-size planets. We thus show that Earth-size planets have formed throughout most of the Universe's 13.8-billion-year history, leaving open the possibility for the existence of ancient life in the Galaxy.

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