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Scientist Revises Opinion, Says Planet May Exist Outside the Solar System

January 08, 1998|From Times staff and wire reports

An astronomer who cast doubt last year on evidence that a planet exists outside our solar system now says the planet might be there after all. In 1995, other researchers proposed the existence of the planet after analyzing light from the star 51 Pegasi. It was the first planet discovered outside the solar system.

Analysis indicated that the star was wobbling, apparently from the gravitational tugs of an orbiting planet. But last February, David F. Gray of the University of Western Ontario in Canada argued that the star was pulsing, which had fooled others into thinking they had found evidence of a planet. But now, Gray reports in today's Nature, new observations of the starlight have failed to find the trait that led to his conclusion, and "a planet may indeed be the best explanation."

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