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Another team, led by Kevin Luhman of Penn State University in State College and using NASA'S orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope, describes its study of HD 3651 in an upcoming Astrophysical Journal.
Eleven percent of known Kuiper belt objects, including three of the four largest, have small orbiting partners.
If the orbiting material ventures any nearer, it's doomed to fall into the black hole, never to be seen again.
The group measured the wobbles that the orbiting bodies produce in their respective suns.
The lightest of the three planets is at least 84 percent as massive as Jupiter and lies within roasting distance of, its parent star, orbiting at about one-tenth the distance that Mercury circles the sun.
But because the Doppler shift can only measure one component of motion--in and out along the line of sight--the extent to which it can reveal the true mass of the orbiting body depends on the tilt of its orbit relative to the line of sight.
Studying the star for more than a decade at the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, the team had discerned what appeared to be a wobble from the tug of an unseen companion orbiting the star every 7 years.
In other words, the planet hunters have now demonstrated that their detectors have enough sensitivity to find a Jupiterlike planet orbiting a sunlike star at a Jupiterlike distance.
Astronomers have found indirect evidence for another six planets orbiting nearby, sunlike stars.
According to one theory, the gravitational tug between two or more massive planets orbiting the same star may propel each into an elongated orbit.
If you were orbiting close to a neutron star, you would be orbiting 1,000 times a second, so to characterize what's going on, you have to have an instrument that can detect variations that occur 1,000 times a second," says M.

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