Mauna Kea telescope captures images of unknown planet

Small circle in the distance is the Jupiter sized planet
Small circle in the distance is the Jupiter sized planet
Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea

MAUNA KEA, Hawaii (KHNL) - Astronomers using the Gemini North telescope atop Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii have made a fascinating discovery.

Using the high powered telescope three University of Toronto scientists were able to capture the first ever images of what appears to be a planet orbiting around a star similar to the Earth's sun.

Along with the images the scientists confirmed that the planet has a mass about eight times that of Jupiter and is about 500 light years away from Earth.

"This is the first time we have directly seen a planetary mass object in a likely orbit around a star like our Sun," said Dr. David Lafrenière, in a newsletter from the Gemini Observatory web page.

"If we confirm that this object is indeed gravitationally tied to the star, it will be a major step forward," he said.

The possible existence of this new planet might challenge the current theoretical models of star and planet formation.

Scientists say it may take up to two years to verify that the star and its likely planet are moving together through space.

"Of course it would be premature to say that the object is definitely orbiting this star, but the evidence is extremely compelling. This will be a very intensely studied object for the next few years!" said Lafrenière.

(photo of planet courtesy of Gemini Observatory/AURA)
(other photos courtesy of AP)