Astronomers just found a planet 13 times bigger than Jupiter

Contributed by
Jan 14, 2013, 1:38 PM EST

Jupiter is a big planet. We live on a big planet, but Jupiter has 121.9 times the surface area of Earth. Jupiter is so big, in fact, that it's actually 2.5 times more massive than the rest of the planets in our solar system combined. Imagine that, now multiply it 13 times, and you've got a new planet that makes Jupiter look small.

This "Super-Jupiter," designated "Kappa And b," was found orbiting the star known as Kappa Andromedae, located 170 light-years from Earth. Kappa Andromedae is itself 2.5 times bigger than our solar system's sun.

Kappa And b is one of the few planets so far to have been photographed, thanks to infrared imaging from Japan's Subaru 8-meter telescope. In the image above, the light of the star (which would be in the center) has been removed through processing to give astronomers a better view of the planet itself. Kappa And b is the bright spot slightly up and to the left of center.

Though its size is certainly impressive, Kappa and b is also serving as a fascinating example of planetary formation where scientists previously thought it couldn't happen. Based on what we know so far about the gas giant, it's believed to have formed from a protoplanetary disk surrounding its star, but it was previously thought that stars the size of Kappa Andromedae couldn't form planets that way. Kappa And b seems to be here to prove us wrong.

So we've directly imaged a new planet, relatively close to us, that dwarfs the largest planet in our solar system, and now that we know big stars can apparently also produce planets via the disk method, we could find even bigger planetary bodies in the years to come.

(Via Yahoo!)

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