|A telescope at Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. (CBS)|
SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Astronomers at the Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton have confirmed the existence of three planets described as “supersized Earths” orbiting a star 54 light years away.
Researchers from the University of California, University of Hawaii, the University of California Observatories and Tennessee State University have been working for years to confirm the planets were there.
The planets orbit a star called HD 7924. They orbit at a distance closer than Mercury orbits our sun (35.9 million miles), and complete their orbits in five, 15 and 24 days, respectively.
“The three planets are unlike anything in our solar system, with masses seven to eight times the mass of Earth and orbits very close to their host star,” UC Berkeley graduate student Lauren Weiss said in a written statement.
The researchers used a robotic telescope called the “Automated Planet Finder,” which searches for planets around nearby stars that could be suitable for life. Most distant planets discovered by astronomers so far are gas giants like Jupiter.
Astronomers first found evidence of planets surrounding HD 7924 six years ago. The planets are not visible to the naked eye.