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New Planet Orbits Sun Look-Alike


The new planet orbits 16 Cygni B, a star that's more like our sun in size and composition than any other star studied to date. But the planet appears to be completely unlike Earth. For instance it weighs at least 540 times as much as Earth and has an eccentric orbit that whips it from 110 million kilometers to 403 million kilometers away from its star during an 819-day year. Perhaps weirdest of all, the new planet has two sunrises a day: 16 Cyg B is one-half of a binary star system.

The latest find brings to at least nine the number of planets discovered outside our solar system. The identity of the new planet was disclosed in a presentation on 16 October by David Latham of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics at a workshop organized by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the Hubble Space Telescope. The official announcement of the discovery will be made on Wednesday by Geoff Marcy of San Francisco State University and Bill Cochran of the University of Texas at the American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Tucson, Arizona.