Astronomers discover strange new planet

Sep 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: Bad weather delays SpaceX launch with 3-D printer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Transit Search Finds Super-Neptune

Jan 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 ...

Recommended for you

Internet moguls Musk, Bezos shake up US space race

20 hours ago

The space race to end America's reliance on Russia escalated this week with a multibillion dollar NASA award for SpaceX's Elon Musk and an unexpected joint venture for Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos.

Winter in the southern uplands of Mars

Sep 19, 2014

Over billions of years, the southern uplands of Mars have been pockmarked by numerous impact features, which are often so closely packed that they overlap. One such feature is Hooke crater, shown in this ...

Five facts about NASA's ISS-RapidScat

Sep 19, 2014

NASA's ISS-RapidScat mission will observe ocean wind speed and direction over most of the globe, bringing a new eye on tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons. Here are five fast facts about the mission.

User comments : 0