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An artist’s impression of b Centauri (AB)b, which orbits a binary system with mass up to 10 times that of the Sun roughly 325 light years from Earth. Image: European Southern Observatory/L. Calcada/Handout via Reuters

Scientists discover planet 10 times size of Jupiter ‘one of the most massive ever’

  • Before the discovery of b Centauri (AB) b, some scientists had believed planets could not exist near an orbiting pair of stars ‘this massive and hot’
  • It is ‘one of the most massive planets ever found’, according to the European Southern Observatory, whose Very Large Telescope in Chile captured an image of it

Scientists have discovered a planet 10 times as massive as Jupiter orbiting a pair of stars in another solar system, according to new research.

The research, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, points to the discovery of a planet named b Centauri (AB) b or b Centauri b, with an image captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

The planet is 10 times as massive as Jupiter and “one of the most massive planets ever found,” according to the observatory.

This is the first time astronomers have directly observed a planet orbiting a star pair this massive and hot. Image: European Southern Observatory / AFP

Also the planet orbits b Centauri, a two-star system that has at least six times the mass of the Sun and is 325 light-years away from Earth.

That makes it the most “massive system around which a planet has been confirmed,” according to a statement from the observatory. The statement also explained, “Until now, no planets had been spotted around a star more than three times as massive as the Sun.”

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Markus Janson, professor of astronomy at Stockholm University and a co-author of the peer-reviewed research, told USA Today that “at some point, as you increase the mass of the star, it also becomes much hotter, and that means that it gives off a lot more very high-energy radiation.”


The observatory noted, “The large mass and the heat from this type of star have a strong impact on the surrounding gas” which “should work against planet formation.” And before the discovery of this planet, some scientists believed planets could not exist near stars “this massive and hot”.

B Centauri b was seen orbiting the star system at a distance 100 times greater than Jupiter orbits the sun. It has been imaged in previous research, but it was not specifically recognised as a planet by scientists.

“I would maybe have expected to find planets around a bit more massive stars, maybe than three solar masses,” Janson told USA Today. “But something like six solar masses, that was really a surprise.”