The universe -- the gift that keeps on giving... and one that will continue to provide opals of awesome for as long as we need it to. One of the latest discoveries from the depths of forever is an extrasolar planetary system that shares a surprising number of characteristics with our own, which apparently, is an unusual occurrence.
Astronomers from the German Aerospace Center -- specifically the Institute of Planetary Research -- came across the celestial curiosity while trawling through data captured by the Kepler Space Telescope. Labelled "KOI-351", it features seven planets positioned in a similar way to our own solar system.
According to a story in Universe Today, some of the planets have comparable orbital periods to Earth, Venus and Mercury. For instance, the Earth analogue, KOI-351 h, not only has a period of 331 days, but is located in the "habitable zone", which means it could sustain life (if our observations of Earth's position and the sun are anything to go by). Unfortunately, KOI-351 h is a gas giant, so all the best building a house there.
The other interesting fact is the structure of the planets themselves are much like they are in our solar system -- rocky planets nearer to the star, with gas giants further away. It's not exactly the same though, with researchers saying KOI-351 is more "compact" and the planets closer to their parent star.
It's mentioned in the Universe Today article that the team behind the discovery are hoping they'll receive funding to examine the system further. Between you and me, I hope they do.