Researchers see parallels between the science of planets and pancakes.(Photo: AAS / UCLA)
Like pancakes? How about crepes? How about planets? You may be in the
right galaxy if you like all three. NASA Kepler space telescope data
suggest that most planets are in solar systems that are flatter than
Looking at hundreds of candidate planets observed
orbiting nearby stars by the Kepler telescope, a team led by UCLA's
Julia Fang concludes that about 85% of solar systems possess planets
that circle their stars on paths only very slightly tilted (3% or less)
with respect to each other. Our solar system also features such
non-tilted orbits, making it similar to others in that respect.
flat, somewhere in between pancakes and the flatness of crepes," says
Fang, speaking at the American Astronomical Society Division of
Planetary Science meeting in Reno. Astronomer Jean-Luc Margot, her
co-author on the study submitted to the Astrophysical Journal, actually cooked up some pancakes to check the claim, she notes.
results "are a huge clue" to solar system origins, says University of
Florida astronomer Darin Ragozzine, who was not part of the study. The
flatness of so many solar systems points to them beginning in dust disks
seen orbiting most young stars, ones that coalesce to form planets over
At the meeting, Ragozzine presented separate Kepler
results pointing to the most compact solar system yet spotted, orbiting a
star called KOI-500. The star likely possesses five candidate planets
all orbiting their stars within less than 10 days. All of those planets
follow "flat" non-tilted orbits too, he notes.