Astronomers discover our long-lost 'solar twin'
Y. Beletsky/(LCO)/ESO

Astronomers discover our long-lost 'solar twin'

If there is anything more exciting than finding your long-lost twin, it might be finding your long-lost solar twin. Using the HARPS spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6-meter telescope in Chile, a Brazilian-led team of astronomers has discovered an extrasolar system that bears a striking resemblance to our own. The HIP11915 system is centered on a star about 200 light years away from us that has a similar mass, age, temperature, and chemical composition to the sun. Orbiting the star is a gas giant that could be a dead ringer for Jupiter. The findings—published in Astronomy and Astrophysics —suggest that astronomers have hit an important milestone in their search for a planetary system that might harbor life. Especially important is the presence of the gas giant: Leading theories hold that Jupiter and Saturn were key to shaping the architecture of our solar system, migrating close to the sun and sweeping out orbital debris that might have otherwise destroyed any chance of life on the inner planets. If this theory is true, rocky planets much like ours could be lurking in the extrasolar whereabouts of our solar twin.