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Tiny scope spies distant planet

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9:45am, September 29, 2004

Using a telescope not much bigger than the one Galileo invented nearly 400 years ago, astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting a star 500 light-years from Earth. The 4-inch telescope in the Canary Islands is one of three small, globally separated telescopes that monitor the brightness of some 12,000 stars in the constellation Lyra. Periodic dips in brightness can result from an orbiting planet crossing in front of a star.

Searching for such planetary transits with the Canary Islands telescope, Roi Alonso of the Astrophysical Institute of the Canary Islands found evidence of a Jupiter-size planet whipping around a sunlike star every 3.03 days.

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