Asked by James Edward
Over the last 20 years, astronomers have been discovering hundreds of planets around other stars, and some of these stars are hosts for multiple planetary systems. Of the solar systems discovered so far, the closest one is around the star named Epsilon Eridani, “just” 10.5 light years away (although that’s still about 100 trillion kilometres!).
This isn’t the only answer though, as Epsilon Eridani has just one planet, so it’s necessary to travel even further to find the nearest multiple planet solar system. At a distance of 15.3 light years away (roughly 145 trillion kilometres), the star Gliese 876 has four confirmed planets. These are imaginatively named Gliese 876 b, Gliese 876 c, Gliese 876 d and Gliese 876 e. All extra-solar planets are named after their host stars, so that astronomers can keep track of which planets belong to which stars.
Answered by Megan Whewell, Education Team Presenter for the National Space Centre.
Image courtesy of NASA