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Scientists Discover Gas Giant 155 Light Years from Our Solar System

May 13, 2014 03:58 PM EDT

A gas giant 155 light years from our solar system has been discovered via direct imaging by an international research team, who published their findings in The Astrophysical Journal.

The planet, referred to as GU Psc b, is located around GU Psc, a star three times smaller than the Sun and located in the constellation Pisces.

A PhD student in the Department of Physics at the Université de Montréal found this planet by combining observations from the Gemini Observatories, the Observatoire Mont-Mégantic (OMM), the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) and the W.M. Keck Observatory.

GU Psc b is about 2,000 times farther from its star than the Earth is from the Sun - a record among the known exoplanets. According to this figure, it takes approximately 80,000 Earth years for GU Psc b to make a complete orbit around its star.

Data also indicates that it has a temperature of around 800 degrees Celsius (1472 degrees Fahrenheit) and weighs nine to 13 times more than Jupiter.

Utilizing images of different wavelengths from the OMM and CFHT, researchers were able to detect this extraordinary far-away planet.

"Planets are much brighter when viewed in infrared rather than visible light, because their surface temperature is lower compared to other stars," lead investigator Marie-Ève Naud said in a statement. "This allowed us to identify GU Psc b."

Naud and researchers had already been studying the GU Psc star because it had just been identified as a member of the young star group AB Doradus. Young stars "only" 100 million-years-old, are prime targets for planetary detection because the planets around them are still cooling and are therefore brighter and more noticeable.

But that's not to say that findings such as this are not rare.

"We observed more than 90 stars and found only one planet, so this is truly an astronomical oddity!" étiene Artigau, co-supervisor of Naud's thesis, noted.

The team has started a project to observe several hundred stars and detect planets lighter than GU Psc b with similar orbits.

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