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December 7 2013

'Impossible' Alien World is Impossible. Yet There It Is


A giant extrasolar planet, or exoplanet, has been discovered orbiting a distant star. But this is no "ordinary" alien planet -- it shouldn't exist. To put it bluntly, it's an affront to current planet formation theories.

HD 106906b is a gas giant exoplanet with a mass 11 times that of Jupiter. So far, this may not seem too strange; hundreds of massive explanets have been spotted in our galaxy. But this one is peculiar in that it orbits its star 650 times the distance the Earth orbits the sun. It's this 650 AU (astronomical unit) distance that is causing some serious astronomical confusion.

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