Key Points:

New Zealand astronomers have helped to find a new solar system - a scaled-down version of our own - among distant stars in the Milky Way.

Sixty-nine scientists in 11 countries provided data and contributed to the discovery, including Paul Tristram at Canterbury's Mt John Observatory. Mr Tristram was the first New Zealander to detect the solar system, using a technique known as gravitational microlensing.

An almost perfect alignment between a background source star, a "lens star", and an observatory allows researchers to detect a planet through the effect of its gravitational field on light from a more distant background star. The technique was developed partly at Auckland University.

An alignment of two stars in the constellation of Sagittarius was identified by Polish astronomers, using a telescope based in Chile.

Other astronomers globally - including New Zealanders - continued to monitor the alignment.

Their analysis revealed the nearer star was a red dwarf, orbited by two giant planets somewhat smaller than Jupiter and Saturn in earth's solar system.