New Planetary Puzzlers

A distant, oversize world causes cosmic confusion

The discovery of planets around distant stars has become like space-shuttle launches--newsworthy but just barely. With some 50 extrasolar planets under their belt, astronomers have to announce something really strange to get anyone's attention.

Last week they did just that. Standing in front of colleagues and reporters at the American Astronomical Society's semiannual meeting in San Diego, the world's premier planet-hunting team--astronomer Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues--presented not one but two remarkable finds. The first is a pair of planets, each about the mass of Jupiter, that whirl around their home star 15 light-years from...

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