- Planets circling Kepler-30 transit the same sunspot, indicating they lie in the same geometric plane.
- The finding suggests a common birth in a rotating disk of gas, much like the suspected origins of our solar system.
- Kepler-30's brood may also include moonlets, asteroids and other bodies circling in the same plane.
When NASA's Kepler space telescope started finding planets at odd angles to their parent stars, scientists wondered if our solar system's tidy geometry, with the planets neatly orbiting around the sun's equator, was an exception to the rule.
That idea can be laid to rest thanks to an innovative use of the Kepler data which aligned three planets circling the sun-like star Kepler-30 with a giant spot on the star's surface.
The study showed the trio of planets orbiting within one degree, relative to each other and relative to the star's equator. That finding is an indication that Kepler-30, like our own solar system, formed from a rotating disk of gas.
"The planets themselves are not all that remarkable -- two giant Jupiters and one super-Earth -- but what is remarkable is that they aligned so perfectly," astronomer Drake Deming, with the University of Maryland, told Discovery News.