Astronomers discover strange new planet

September 14, 2006
NASA montage of planets

U.S. astronomers have discovered a planet unlike any other known in the universe. Smithsonian scientists say the new planet was discovered using a network of small automated telescopes known as HATl. The planet -- designated HAT-P-1 -- orbits one member of a pair of distant stars 450 light-years away in the constellation Lacerta.

"We could be looking at an entirely new class of planets," said Gaspar Bakos, a Hubble fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.

With a radius about 1.38 times that of Jupiter, HAT-P-1 is the largest known planet. But, in spite of its huge size, its mass is only half that of Jupiter.

"This planet is about one-quarter the density of water," Bakos said. "In other words, it's lighter than a giant ball of cork! Just like Saturn, it would float in a bathtub if you could find a tub big enough to hold it."

Astronomer Robert Boyes, co-discoverer of the planet, said, "This new discovery suggests something could be missing in our theories of how planets form."

Bakos is lead author of a paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal describing the discovery.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: European satellite could discover thousands of planets in Earth's galaxy

Related Stories

Transit Search Finds Super-Neptune

January 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered a planet somewhat larger and more massive than Neptune orbiting a star 120 light-years from Earth. While Neptune has a diameter ...

Recommended for you

Distant planet's interior chemistry may differ from our own

September 1, 2015

As astronomers continue finding new rocky planets around distant stars, high-pressure physicists are considering what the interiors of those planets might be like and how their chemistry could differ from that found on Earth. ...

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Image: Hubble sees a youthful cluster

August 31, 2015

Shown here in a new image taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is the globular cluster NGC 1783. This is one of the biggest globular clusters in the Large Magellanic ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.