Is Pandora better than the earth

New Exoplanets: Mankind's Departure to Pandora

There are more than 800 exoplanets that astronomers have already discovered. More than 800 alien worlds orbiting distant suns. Most of them are too big, too hot, gaseous or otherwise completely unsuitable to be considered a reflection of our planet, a second earth, so to speak.

But now it seems as if science is slowly catching up with science fiction: In the fiction of James Cameron's Hollywood film "Avatar - Departure for Pandora" there are five planets in the star formation Alpha Centauri. One of them, Polyphemus, is orbited by a moon named Pandora.

And there is life on it, in the form of a blue species called Na’vi. And now researchers have found just that: a planet in Alpha Centauri.

Planet modeled on Avatar

Astronomers are still not quite sure how far the parallels go. One thing is certain: there is indeed at least one planet in the Alpha Centauri star system. It is slightly larger than Earth, but much closer to its star. Transferred to our solar system, the planet would still orbit within the orbit of the planet Mercury, which is closest to the sun. It can complete one cycle in just three days and 2.5 hours. So a year on this planet would be so short. Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory discovered it in the Chilean Andes.

And where there is one - there could be more. The American astronomer Gregory Laughlin from the University of California in Santa Cruz considers the prospects to be optimal for discovering other planets at Alpha Centauri - maybe even five in total, which would then prove another parallel to “Avatar”.

Other worlds in Alpha Centauri?

Small flaw in this comparison: Alpha Centauri consists of three stars. In the film, too, three suns shine in the sky of the planet Polyphemus and its moon Pandora. In the Hollywood fantasy, however, Polyphemus orbits the star Alpha Centauri A, while the now discovered exoplanet turns its orbits around the star Alpha Centauri B.

Marc Kuchner, astrophysicist at the Goddard Space Center of the American space agency NASA, would not be surprised if there were other worlds in this star system. Until a few years ago, astronomers believed that the orbits of planets in double or triple star systems could not be stable. In the meantime, however, a planet has even appeared with four suns.

Pas de deux in space

At the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Planetary Science Division in Reno, astronomers unveiled planet PH1 earlier this week. This abbreviation stands for Planet Hunter. With this program, researchers led by Yale University are looking for exoplanets. PH1 is slightly larger than Neptune and orbits two stars 5000 light years from Earth.

The two stars in turn orbit each other every 20 days. And that doesn't end this heavenly pas de deux: At a distance that is a dozen times larger than the diameter of our entire solar system, there is another pair of stars, the first circled.

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