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Exoplanets cast doubt on astronomical theories Astronomers who study how planets form are scratching their heads after two studies have shown that all is not as theory would predict in the world of other-worldly worlds. How planets are born Christian Marois has posted the first challenge, an astronomer from the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, Canada, and his colleagues, who used the Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to spot a fourth planet in the star system HR 8799, some 39 parsecs (129 light years) away from Earth1. The planet, HR 8799e, is a gas giant rather like Jupiter, but about ten times as massive — similar to the other three planets in the system, which Marois discovered in 2008. It sits relatively close to its star, at 14.5 astronomical units (AU; one AU is the average distance between Earth and our Sun. Saturn is some 9.5 AU from our Sun, and Uranus is at a distance of some 19.6 AU). The other planets in the HR 8799 system are 24, 38 and 68 AU from their star, respectively."