Campante, T. L.; Barclay, T.; Swift, J. J.; Huber, D.; Adibekyan, V. Zh.; Cochran, W.; Burke, C. J.; Isaacson, H.; Quintana, E. V.; Davies, G. R.; Silva Aguirre, V.; Ragozzine, D.; Riddle, R.; Baranec, C.; Basu, S.; Chaplin, W. J.; Christensen-Dalsgaard, J.; Metcalfe, T. S.; Bedding, T. R.; Handberg, R.; Stello, D.; Brewer, J. M.; Hekker, S.; Karoff, C.; Kolbl, R.; Law, N. M.; Lundkvist, M.; Miglio, A.; Rowe, J. F.; Santos, N. C.; Van Laerhoven, C.; Arentoft, T.; Elsworth, Y. P.; Fischer, D. A.; Kawaler, S. D.; Kjeldsen, H.; Lund, M. N.; Marcy, G. W.; Sousa, S. G.; Sozzetti, A.; White, T. R.
KOI-3158: The oldest known system of terrestrial-size planets,
The Space Photometry Revolution – CoRoT Symposium 3, Kepler KASC-7 Joint Meeting
The first discoveries of exoplanets around Sun-like stars have fueled efforts to find ever smaller worlds evocative of Earth and other terrestrial planets in the Solar System. While gas-giant planets appear to form preferentially around metal-rich stars, small planets (with radii less than four Earth radii) can form under a wide range of metallicities. This implies that small, including Earth-size, planets may have readily formed at earlier epochs in the Universe’s history when metals were far less abundant.
We report Kepler spacecraft observations of KOI-3158, a metal-poor Sun-like star from the old population of the Galactic thick disk, which hosts five planets with sizes between Mercury and Venus. We used asteroseismology to directly measure a precise age of 11.2 ± 1.0 Gyr for the host star, indicating that KOI-3158 formed when the Universe was less than 20% of its current age and making it the oldest known system of terrestrial-size planets. We thus show that Earth-size planets have formed throughout most of the Universe’s 13.8-billion-year history, providing scope for the existence of ancient life in the Galaxy.