A team of Canadian astrophysicists has discovered a 'super-Jupiter' sized planet around the massive star Kappa Andromedae, having a mass at least 13 times that of Jupiter and an orbit somewhat larger than Neptune's.
The object could represent the first new observed exoplanet system in almost four years. The host star around which the planet orbits has a mass 2.5 times that of the Sun, making it the highest mass star to ever host a directly observed planet.
The star can be seen with the naked eye in the constellation Andromeda at a distance of about 170 light years, the Astrophysical Journal Letters reports.
"Our team identified a faint object located very close to Kappa Andromedae in January that looks much like other young, massive directly imaged planets but does not look like a star," said study co-author Thayne Currie, post-doctoral fellow in the department of astronomy & astrophysics at the University of Toronto.
The researchers made the discovery based on an infrared imaging search carried out as part of the Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru (SEEDS) programme using the Subaru telescope located in Hawaii, according to a Toronto statement.
"Kappa Andromedae moves fast across the sky so it will appear to change position relative to more distant, background objects," Currie says.
"When we re-observed it in July at multiple wavelengths, we saw the faint object again, located at about the same position as it was in January.
This indicates that it is bound to the star and not an unrelated background object. Labelled by the researchers as Kappa And b, it could be the first direct rendering of an exoplanet in two years and of a new exoplanet system in almost four years, ending a significant drought in the field.