Exoplanet "Golden Age?"

196225main_exoplanetfinal516[Cross-posted from KySat]

According to Universe Today, a fifth planet has been found orbiting 55 Cancri.

Think about it. Fifth planet, same star. The best news:

Perhaps the coolest part of this whole discovery: the planet orbits its parent star once every 260 days. This places it within its star's habitability zone, where liquid water can be present. It's a little closer than our Earth  is to the Sun, but its star is also a little fainter, so it all evens out.

As illustrated by an artist's image above, 55 Cancri is located 41 light-years away in the constellation Cancer. During the winter it can be seen through binoculars on a clear night above and to the left of Orion, as this image shows.

Listening to a news conference about the discovery, Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams had this to say yesterday:

I’m thinking we’re living in the golden age of exoplanet research. I remember wondering once what it must have been like to do astronomy in the Edwin Hubble era, when the size of the universe itself was being so radically redefined and our understanding of the nature of distant objects completely altered. But this is better, with the prospect of moving from single planet discoveries to fully characterized systems ahead of us.


Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech