Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered eighteen new planets orbiting stars bigger than our sun.
Astronomers used twin telescopes at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, looking for slight wobbles caused by the gravitational tug of orbiting planets.
The newly found planets with masses similar to Jupiter's, provide an invaluable population of planetary systems for understanding the formation and evolution of planets and our own solar system, Science Daily reported.
“It's the largest single announcement of planets in orbit around stars more massive than the sun, aside from the discoveries made by the Kepler mission,” said John Johnson as first author on the paper of The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series published on December 3, 2011.
Researchers believe the findings also lend further support to the theory that planets grow from seed particles that accumulate gas and dust in a disk surrounding a newborn star.
According to this theory, tiny particles start to form a solid mass, eventually snowballing into a planet. If this is the true sequence of events, the characteristics of the resulting planetary system will depend on the mass of the star.
The theory means that a huger star would present a bigger disk, which in turn would mean more material to produce a greater number of giant planets.
The new batch of planets has another interesting pattern. Their orbits are mainly circular, while planets around sunlike stars cover a wide range of circular to elliptical paths.
Johnson and his team are now studying to find an explanation for the pattern.