KIWI, JAPANESE ASTRONOMERS FIND DISTANT PLANET

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, April 26) - Astronomers in New Zealand said Monday they had located the most distant planet so far discovered, a Jupiter-sized object 17,000 light years away.

Astronomers from Canterbury, Auckland and Victoria Universities in New Zealand and Japan's Nagoya University said the planet orbits a red dwarf star in the middle of the Milky Way galaxy.

The far-off object was discovered from Canterbury University's Mount John observatory, near the Southern Alps mountain chain in New Zealand's South Island.

It was also independently located by United States and Polish astronomers working from an observatory in Chile and the find will be published in the international Astrophysical Journal next month.

One of the project's astronomers, Victoria University reader in astrophysics Denis Sullivan, said the planet was found using a gravitational micro-lensing technique that measures the way in which gravity bends light.

"This is the first time a planet has been found using this technique," he said. "The real strength (of the technique) is the ability to hopefully find other Earth-like planets, which is difficult to do using other techniques."

He said that although the new planet was gaseous and could not support life, he believed it was possible there were earth-like planets waiting to be discovered.

April 27, 2004

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