February 25, 2024

The European Space Agency’s Khufu exoplanet mission discovers a rare planetary system 100 light-years from Earth

This article was originally published on English

Cheops discovered an exoplanet system with “resonant orbital periods.” It provides astronomers with information about the formation and evolution of a planetary system.


The European Space Agency (ESA) is currently carrying out a number of missions to discover and study exoplanets, that is, planets outside our solar system.

One of these missions is Khufu (the chapterdiscrimination HsHeyplanet sAtellite), discovered a rare exoplanet system located about 100 light-years away.

According to the European Space Agency, this is an important discovery because it can provide us with information about the formation and evolution of the planetary system.

Khufu discovered that at least six planets revolve around the star called HD110067 in the Berenice constellation. The orbits of these planets show that the system has remained largely unchanged since its formation more than a billion years ago.

“We think that only about one percent of all systems are still in resonance,” says Rafael Luke of the University of Chicago’s Department of Astronomy. This is why HD110067 is special and calls for further study.

“It shows us the original formation of an untouched planetary system.

The changes in the star’s brightness were first detected in 2020 by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) — a sign that there may be planets moving between the star and our view of its light.

Initially, astronomers thought the data revealed two potential planets, but two years later, new data from TESS indicated that the original hypothesis didn’t make sense, but instead revealed two different potential planets.

“We then decided to use Khufu,” Loki said. “We looked for signals between all the possible time periods these planets could pass through.”

Planets in “orbital resonance”

The planets are in orbital resonance, which means that their orbital periods can be expressed as a ratio of two whole numbers.

In the case of HD110067, the exoplanet was found to have an orbital period of 20,519 days, roughly 1.5 times the next planet’s orbital period of 13,673 days. This, in turn, is approximately 1.5 times longer than the inner planet’s orbital period of 9,114 days.

By comparing this data with data that remains unexplained, the team was able to determine the presence of three additional planets in the system.

“Khufu gave us this resonant configuration that allowed us to predict all other periods,” Loki explains. “Without this discovery by Khufu, it would have been impossible.”

Resonant planetary systems are very rare because in the vast majority of systems the normal evolution of planetary orbits has been arrested. This could be due to a massive planet in the system exerting greater gravity on smaller planets, a close encounter with a passing star, or even a collision with a planet.

“In the words of our science team: ‘Khufu makes extraordinary discoveries look ordinary,'” said Maximilian Günther, ESA project lead. “Of three known resonance systems for six planets, this is now the second one that Khufu has discovered, and in just three years of operation.” Khufu’s world.

Other ESA missions dedicated to exoplanets are Plato and Ariel.

Scheduled for launch in 2026, PLATO will use a series of cameras to study Earth-like exoplanets orbiting the habitable zone of Sun-like stars, measure the sizes of the planets and detect exomoons and the rings surrounding them.

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Ariel is scheduled to launch in 2029 and will analyze the chemical composition of exoplanet atmospheres.


The results of the three missions should shed light on the shape of exoplanets and their systems and show us how unique our solar system is.