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Amateur stargazers discover new planet
Posted On: Jan 20, 2012
A file photo.
In what's claimed to be the third time in recorded history, two amateur British astronomers say they have discovered a new planet which they want to be named after them.
Chris Holmes and Lee Threapleton spotted the new world while working on a project to find planets beyond our Solar System, publicised by Prof Brian Cox in his Stargazing Live series, the 'Daily Mail' reported.
If the genuineness of their discovery is confirmed by planetary scientists, then the heavenly body, thought to be gaseous and around the size of Neptune, will be named "Threapleton Holmes B", the newspaper said.
In fact, the pair made the discovery after spotting changes in light patterns in an image from NASA's Kepler space telescope. The unusual patterns suggested a planet appears to be orbiting a sun called SPH10066540, which lies between 600 and 3,000 light years away.
The image of the new planet has been posted online at 'Planethunters.org', an Oxford University project that asks the public to sift through time-lapsed data from NASA in the hope of new discoveries.
Holmes of Peterborough said: "I've never even had a telescope. I've had a passing interest in where things are in the sky, but never had any more knowledge about it than that.
Being the one to find something is a very exciting position."
Dr Chris Lintott at Oxford University said: "The candidate planet is unlikely to have life because it is too hot. It is too close to its star and the sheer heat makes life unlikely."
This is believed to be only the third time that British amateurs have found a new planet. The first was William Herschel who discovered Uranus in 1781.
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