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Massive new 'super-Jupiter' exoplanet discovered

November 19, 2012|By Jon Bardin
  • Astrophysicists have discovered a new "super-Jupiter" exoplanet that experts believe will shed new light on processes of planet formation.
Astrophysicists have discovered a new "super-Jupiter" exoplanet… (NAOJ / Subaru )

An international team of astrophysicists has discovered an enormous gaseous planet that is 13 times more massive than Jupiter, earning it the designation "super-Jupiter."

The finding, which is set to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters, marks the first new exoplanet system to be directly observed in over four years, according to the researchers. A pre-print of the study is available here.

The planet is named "Kappa And b," because it is revolving around the parent star Kappa Andromedae. That star has a mass that is 2.5 times the mass of the sun, and can be seen at night, by eye, in the constellation Andromeda.

The finding may be most significant because it sheds light on processes of planet formation. Astrophysicists are still unsure exactly what physical rules govern the formation of planets, particularly as stars begin to get far more massive than the one at the center of our solar system. Many experts thought that a star as big as Kappa Andromedae would disrupt planet formation because of its intense and powerful radiation.

But the existence of Kappa And b challenges such theories of planet formation. The research was carried out as part of a larger project that is searching the sky for exoplanets, called the Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS) program because it uses the Subaru telescope in Hawaii.

The SEEDS team says it will continue to study the planet to try to understand how it formed. 

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