Astronomers Discover 18 New Planets

Hot Jupiter Exoplanet Illustration

In this artist’s conception, a possible newfound planet spins through a clearing in a nearby star’s dusty, planet-forming disc. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Good news today for fans of giant planets. Astronomers have found 18 new alien planets. They are all Jupiter-size gas giants that circle stars larger than our sun. This increases the number of exoplanets (that we know about) that orbit massive stars by 50 percent. This discovery will help astronomers gain insight into how giant planets form and grow in young solar systems.

The pace of discovery is fast and furious for new planets right now. It was only a month ago when researchers announced 50 new planets; one a rocky planet that looks like it may support life. This brings the list of known alien planets to over 700 so far and that figure will no doubt jump very quickly.

300 stars were studied using the Keck Observatory in Hawaii and other instruments. They honed in on “retired” type A stars that fit the size requirement of being 1.5 times more massive than our sun. The astronomers then looked for slight wobbles caused by the gravitational pull of orbiting planets. This strategy worked well, because they found 18 new planets; all of them orbiting a distance of at least 0.7 times the span from Earth to the sun. That’s roughly 93 million miles (150 million kilometers).

I can’t wait to see what we can learn from these newly found planets and to find more.

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