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Hubble Helps Confirm Oldest Known Planet

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Old July 10th 03, 07:35 PM
Ron Baalke
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Default Hubble Helps Confirm Oldest Known Planet

EMBARGOED UNTIL: 2 pm (EDT), July 10, 2003

Don Savage
NASA Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1547; E-mail: )

Nancy Neal
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
(Phone: 301/286-0039; E-mail:

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
(Phone: 410/338-4514; E-mail:

Barbara Kennedy
Penn State University, University Park, PA
(Phone: 814/863-4682; E-mail:

Michelle Cook
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
(Phone: 604/822-2048; E-mail:

Tim Stephens
University of California, Santa Cruz, CA
(Phone: 831-459-2495; E-mail:

Stuart Walpert
University of California, Los Angeles, CA
(Phone: 310-825-2585; E-mail:



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope precisely measured the mass of the oldest
known planet in our Milky Way galaxy. At an estimated age of 13 billion
years, the planet is more than twice as old as Earth's 4.5 billion
years. It's about as old as a planet can be. It formed around a young,
sun-like star barely 1 billion years after our universe's birth in the
Big Bang. The ancient planet has had a remarkable history because it
resides in an unlikely, rough neighborhood. It orbits a peculiar pair of
burned-out stars in the crowded core of a cluster of more than 100,000
stars. The new Hubble findings close a decade of speculation and debate
about the identity of this ancient world. Until Hubble's measurement,
astronomers had debated the identity of this object. Was it a planet or
a brown dwarf? Hubble's analysis shows that the object is 2.5 times the
mass of Jupiter, confirming that it is a planet. Its very existence
provides tantalizing evidence that the first planets formed rapidly,
within a billion years of the Big Bang, leading astronomers to conclude
that planets may be very abundant in our galaxy.

To see and read more about the oldest known planet, click on:


The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is operated by the
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA), for
NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt,
MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation
between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).


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