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UT researchers discover new planetary system

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Astronomers at the University of Texas have found something never seen before.

NASA's Keplar Spacecraft found a multi planet solar system orbiting a binary star--a binary star named Kepler 47.

Unlike Star Wars, one star in the Kepler 47 duo burns brightly while the other is much smaller.

Researchers observing the system realized they really had something special when they saw objects eclipsing the stars.

"Ten years ago this was a dream, now it is a reality. It is absolutely fantastic," Research Scientist Dr. Michael Endl said. "If you are lucky enough like in this case of Keplar 47, the planetary system is almost perfectly aligned with the plane in which the two stars orbit each other."

While this is a milestone in space exploration, the mission is far from over.

"What we are doing is searching for planets that are very much like earth,” Sr. Research Scientist Dr. William Cochran said. “So the ultimate goal is to find a planet where possible life could have developed and still be here today."

With the data they received, they are confident planetary systems like this may be more common than initially thought.

"This tells us that planets are really very, very common around other stars,” Cochran said. “That a system like ours is not unusual, in fact, it is more the rule than the exception, and so this makes me very excited about the possibility of finding another possibly habitable earth-like planet."

Researchers now have the technology to spot planets the same size as earth thousands of light years away.

"This is easily the most exciting thing I have been working on," Cochran said.

Researchers at UT predict with further missions they are only decades away from finding the holy grail of planetary research--life on another planet.

Astronomers were able to track the progress using the McDonald Observatory in West Texas.

The project was funded by NASA.

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