Recent Cosmic Discovery
For many years, people thought that the planet Earth was the only planet of its kind. In addition, it was believed that the Milky Way was the only galaxy that contained planets like ours. A significant amount of time and money has gone into this quest for the unknown. Over 90 extrasolar planets have been announced over the last 15 years and over 1,200 Sun-like stars have been observed. Ultimately, little success has been made to discover a comparable planetary mass to Earth, even with the continuing advancements of technology, until recently.
An outstanding discovery has been made that has piqued the interest of scientists as well as the common public. According to The Washington Times, "Scientists at NASA's Washington headquarters announced yesterday that an international team of astronomers has located 15 new planets beyond Earth's solar system -- and, for the first time, what they see looks familiar."
(Salai, 2002) When astronomers are on the hunt for similar solar systems, they are not searching for an exact match to our system, but one that has similar gravitational effects that may be able to support life. Many different kinds of "space masses" have been located over the years and this is a revolutionary breakthrough that cannot compare with previous revelations.
In the constellation Cancer, there is a star called 55 Cancri that is very similar to our Sun. The age of this star is between four and seven billion years old. The location is roughly 41 light years away from the Earth. This star is very rich in carbon, silicon, and sulfur. Within this new "solar system", a Jupiter-like gas ball called "55 Cnc d" is circling around it.
The new planet is located about 51 light years away from the Earth. The orbit of the...