Planet three times the size of Jupiter discovered 100 light-years away

Illustration of Jupiter.
Photo credit: Getty

A gigantic planet three times the size of Jupiter has been discovered, and astronomers say they've never seen anything like it.

Astronomers from the Lick Observatory in California, Keck Observatory in Hawaii and McDonald Observatory in Texas discovered the massive planet.

They named it HR 5183 b and it's roughly 100 light-years away in the constellation Virgo.

It has a long, looping orbit around a star in the constellation. Using tiny wobbles of light from its host star caused by its gravitational pull, astronomers were able to calculate just how huge the planet is.

If it was in our solar system, its orbit would take it from beyond Neptune to inside the orbit of Jupiter, a distance of 3,722,670,000km.

"Our universe is full of lots of weird solar systems totally unlike our own," one of the scientists behind the discovery, Sarah Blunt told 7 News.

"It seems like every time we think we've found the weirdest solar system, something else totally strange is discovered."

She says HR 5183 b's orbit is similar to "whiplash" as it swoops near the star's intense gravitational pull, and then slowly eases as it moves away.

Other plants with such eccentric orbits have been discovered, but HR 5183 b is the only one which orbits at such a great distance.

Blunt says astronomers can simulate the planet's formation to learn more about the conditions which led to its creation.

"There's a lot of next steps for this planet!"

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