Jupiter's 'Twin' Found: Is This Solar System 2.0?

Jupiter's Twin Illustration
Artist's impression of a Jupiter-size planet orbiting HIP 11915. (Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

A planet similar in mass to Jupiter, and orbiting a sunlike star at about the same distance as the real Jupiter, may have been identified by scientists — and the alien solar system may have more planets like our own.

The Jupiter doppelgänger, called HIP 11915, was identified by a team of scientists searching for solar systems that resemble our own, according to a statement from the European Space Agency.

What's more, the composition of the parent star suggests there could be rocky planets closer in, the researchers said. You can see a video explaining the new research here at Space.com.

"After two decades of hunting for exoplanets, we are finally beginning to see long-period gas giant planets similar to those in our own solar system," said lead author Megan Bedell, a graduate student in astrophysics at the University of Chicago, in a statement.

"This discovery is, in every respect, an exciting sign that other solar systems [like our own] may be out there waiting to be discovered."

Extrasolar gas giants are a common find, but what makes HIP 11915 interesting is how far away it is from its parent star. Current methods of planet-hunting – such as detecting the effect on a star – favor finding big planets close to small dwarf stars. According to the release from ESO, this newly discovered system is the "most accurate analogue yet found for the Sun and Jupiter."

This find could be a help to predicting where life arises in extrasolar systems, the team added. In our own solar system, the theory goes, the massive size of Jupiter acted as an influence on how the smaller planets around it were arranged.

Since at least one of those planets (Earth) hosts life, Jupiter could be considered a life-friendly asset to our solar system. However, Jupiter is also believed to have directed many comets and asteroids toward the sun early in the solar system's formation, which could have upped the chances for cosmic smashups a few billion years ago.

The discovery of HIP 11915 was made with HARPS, a planet-hunting instrument on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. Scientists said follow-up observations will be necessary to confirm the find.

The research will be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace