Astronomers have discovered an ancient solar system estimated to be 11.2 billion-years old. This makes it more than twice the age of our own solar system and almost as old as the universe’s 13.8 billion-year history. In fact, its sun and planets were already older than Earth and our own sun by the time our solar system was formed.

What makes the discovery even more exciting is the fact that the star system includes at least five earth-sized planets. All of them are smaller than Earth and range in size between Mercury and Venus. They also orbit their parent star at about the same distance as Mercury from the Sun, thus not within what is known as the habitable “goldilocks zone” where water and life can develop as we know it.

Nevertheless, the discovery of this ancient solar system confirms that there are solar systems out there that are far older than our own. If life began on any of these planets, then they would have had far more time to develop and surpass our own level of intelligence and technological advancements.

The solar system has been given the name Kepler-444 and lies about 117 light-years from Earth towards the direction of the constellations Lyra and Cygnus. Its star is about three-quarters the size of our sun.

Astronomers were able to calculate its approximate age by measuring the star’s diameter and fluctuation in brightness. The five exo-planets were detected by measuring the dimming of the star’s light whenever one of the planets passed in front of it in our direction.

The ancient solar system’s discovery is nothing short of exciting for those who gaze at the sky at night and wonder what lies beyond planet Earth. Just imagine that somewhere in another galaxy or maybe even in our own, lies a solar system as old as Kepler-444 but with planets in the habitable zone. If life were to develop, their civilization by now would be eons ahead of ours.

[photo credit: johnny9s]