UA scientist's mind-blowing discovery shakes current theories about planets

Published: Dec. 7, 2013 at 12:45 AM MST|Updated: Dec. 21, 2013 at 12:49 AM MST
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(Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech)
(Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's a first for the University of Arizona.

An international team, led by UA graduate student Vanessa Bailey, has discovered a planet about 11 times larger than Jupiter, orbiting a distant, sun-like star.

It's the first time a UA scientist has discovered a planet outside our solar system, an exoplanet.

Called HD 106906b, the planet is so large and so far away from its star that it shakes current theories on how planets form.

"What's so interesting about this system is that there is no single theory of planet or star formation that fully explains what we see. The planet formation theories really act much closer to the star where earth is, where our solar system is," Bailey says.

She says the planet is orbiting about 650 times farther from its star than the earth does from its star.

Bailey says, for perspective, "Neptune only orbits 30 times farther from the sun the earth does. So this is another 20 times farther than that and nobody expected to find a giant planet like this so far from its star."

Bailey says the planet likely would take about 10,000 years to orbit its sun.

She says it's about 300 light years from earth.

The planet was discovered though a ground-based telescope.

The team confirmed key details with Hubble Space Telescope images.

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