Representational image
Representational image

Washington: An international team of astronomers has discovered a trio of hot worlds larger than Earth orbiting a much younger version of our Sun called TOI 451. The system resides in the recently discovered Pisces-Eridanus stream, a collection of stars less than 3 per cent the age of our solar system that stretches across one-third of the sky.

The researchers believe that the newly discovered planetary system, detailed in The Astronomical Journal, will provide researchers with the rare chance to study a group of growing planets. The planets were discovered in images taken by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) between October and December 2018.

Follow-up studies of TOI 451 and its planets included observations made in 2019 and 2020 using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which has since been retired, as well as many ground-based facilities. Archival infrared data from NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite suggests the system retains a cool disk of dust and rocky debris.

Other observations show that TOI 451 likely has two distant stellar companions circling each other far beyond the planets. "This system checks a lot of boxes for astronomers," said lead researcher Elisabeth Newton, Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, US.

"It's only 120 million years old and just 400 light-years away, allowing detailed observations of this young planetary system. And because there are three planets between two and four times Earth's size, they make especially promising targets for testing theories about how planetary atmospheres evolve."

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