According to scientists, exoplanets the same size as earth orbit their own star the same way Earth orbits our sun. This can help them find and identify planets that potentially have extraterrestrial life.
Scientists were debating whether our own planet’s orbit was the exception or the rule. To set the question to rest, Scientists from MIT and Denmark’s Aarhus University set out to examine 74 exoplanets travelling around 28 stars.
According to a visiting grad student at MIT Department of Physics, Vincent Van Eylen “Twenty years ago, we only knew about our solar system, and everything was circular and so everyone expected circular orbits everywhere. Then we started finding giant exoplanets, and we found suddenly a whole range of eccentricities, so there was an open question about whether this would also hold for smaller planets.”
Scientists now believe that planets follow roughly equidistant circular orbits, as long as they are as small as the earth.
Unlike Earth sized planets, giant exoplanets follow rather eccentric orbits, getting extremely close to their hot star then going very far away after.
Knowing that Earth sized exoplanets follow a stable orbit will greatly change how scientists look for life.
According to Van Eylen If eccentric orbits are common for habitable planets, that would be quite a worry for life, because they would have such a large range of climate properties, but what we find is, probably we don’t have to worry too much because circular cases are fairly common.”