Scientists discover new type of planet

Using a network of telescopes in the states of Arizona and Hawaii, astronomers at Harvard University have discovered a new type of planet which is far bigger than Jupiter.

The newly identified planet, HAT-P-1, is located about 450 light years from Earth, in constellation Lacerta, where it orbits one member of a double-star system called ADS 16402, reports All Headline News.

"We could be looking at an entirely new class of planets," Gaspar Bakos, a Hubble fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and lead author of the study said in a statement.

"We have discovered a very bizarre new object," research astrophysicist Robert Noyes said at a news conference. "The people who do theoretical models are left scratching their heads as to what's going on."

Unlike Jupiter, Saturn and other "gas giants," this planet does not have a solid core, they said.

It is extremely close to its parent star, one-seventh of the distance between Mercury and the Sun, and it makes a complete orbit once every 4.5 days.

What is puzzling scientists is that the planet is larger than predicted by current theories.

The large size could be the result of heat coming from the interior of the planet but scientists have yet to determine how that could happen, Noyes said.

Scientists found the planet because light from the star dims when the planet passes in front of it, according to Reuters.

Researchers have discovered about 200 planets outside the solar system so far, but currently lack the ability to detect smaller planets the size of the Earth. That's likely to change in coming years thanks to improved technology, the Smithsonian scientists said.

"We are at the beginning of a new stage of exploration of these types of objects," said Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative.

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