Stargazers find new planet

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iol scitech jan 23 solar system AP The main bodies of the solar system, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, the Earth, from left in foreground, Uranus, Neptune, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, from left in background.

London - A pair of amateur British stargazers have discovered a new planet – for only the third time in history.

Chris Holmes and Lee Threapleton spotted the new world during a project to find planets beyond our solar system publicised by Professor Brian Cox in his Stargazing Live series.

The pair will receive the honour of having the planet named after them, once scientists have confirmed its authenticity.

They made the discovery after spotting changes in light patterns in an image from Nasa’s Kepler space telescope. The unusual patterns suggested a planet appears to be orbiting a sun called SPH10066540, which lies between 600 and 3,000 light years away.

“Threapleton Holmes B”, as the planet will be known, is thought to be gaseous, and around the size of Neptune.

The image had been posted online at, an Oxford University project that asks the public to sift through time-lapsed data from Nasa in the hope of new discoveries.

Mr Holmes, of Peterborough, said: “I’ve never even had a telescope. I’ve had a passing interest in where things are in the sky, but never had any more knowledge about it than that.

“Being the one to find something is a very exciting position.”

But the other amateur stargazer, Mr Threapleton, may not even know he is set to have a planet named after him, as the project’s team have not yet been able to reach him.

Dr Chris Lintott, from Oxford University, said: “The candidate planet is unlikely to have life because it is too hot. It is too close to its star and the sheer heat makes life unlikely.”

It is believed to be only the third time British amateurs have found a new planet. The first was William Herschel, who discovered Uranus in 1781. - Daily Mail

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