Scientists Discover Planetary System With 5 Neptune-like Planets

This image shows a close-up of the sky around the star HD 10180.

European astronomers are in a giddy mood after discovering a star system inhabited by at least five Neptune-like planets. The planet hunters also believe that there are two more star systems out there, including one that could be the smallest found outside our solar system with a mass 1.4 times that of the Earth. Not only would that make it the least massive exoplanet ever detected but one year there would be the equivalent of 1.18 earth days. The discovery was a joint-project of Swiss, French and German scientists using the European Southern Observatory telescope in Chile.

The planetary system, which features planets ranging from Saturn-like to Earth-like, orbit a star called HD 10180, some 127 light-years away in the Hydrus constellation. Five are thought to be covered with rock and ice, and have 13 to 25 times the mass of Earth. The star system is thought to contain one larger planet similar to Saturn while another has just 1.4 times the mass of Earth orbiting very close to the star.

The HARPS Search for Southern Extra-solar Planets