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Is Earth the only habitable planet in the universe or are there more worlds somewhere out there that are capable of supporting life? And if there are, what might they look like? In a bid to answer these fundamental questions, scientists are searching space for exoplanets: distant worlds that orbit other stars outside our solar system.

More than 4,000 exoplanets are known to date, most of them orbiting single stars like our Sun. Now astrophysicist Dr Markus Mugrauer of Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany, has discovered and characterised many new multiple star systems that contain exoplanets. The findings confirm assumptions that the existence of several stars influences the process by which planets are formed and develop. The study by Mugrauer, of the Astrophysical Institute and University Observatory of the University of Jena, has now been published in the specialist journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Category: Science