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NASA discovers youngest exoplanet 500 light years away from Earth

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

A kid yet fully-formed exoplanet has been discovered 500 light years away from Earth, orbiting a young star.

The newfound planet by a team of international researchers, known as K2-33b, most closely resembles Neptune in size, when compared to planets in our own solar system, and orbits its star once every five days.

Researchers behind the discovery, which include Dr Sasha Hinkley of the University of Exeter, believe the planet is only five-10 million years old - as so still in its infancy in astronomical terms and when compared to Earth, which is 4.5 billion years old.

It also means it is the youngest, fully formed planet to have been identified and one of the few newborn planets to have been discovered to date.

The research team hopes that the pioneering discovery will help astronomers to gain a greater understanding of the processes behind the evolution of planets across the galaxy.

Dr Hinkley described the discovery as "providing an extraordinary snapshot of the planet formation process."

The team of astronomers detected the new planet using NASA's Kepler space telescope, during its K2 mission, which identified a recurring dimming in the light emitted by the planet's host star that hinted that an orbiting planet was regularly passing in front of it.

The star orbited by new exoplanet has a small amount of disk material left, indicated by observations from NASA's Spitzer space telescope, suggesting it is in the final stages of dissipating.

This study has been published in Nature.

-With agency inputs

First published: 28 June 2016, 10:59 IST