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Pandora plus Endor: Multi hab-moon motherworld discovered

Ewok v Na'vi space wars at faraway giant planet?

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Vids Top astro boffins have announced the discovery of the first planet which could be the real-life parent world of fictional habitable moons Pandora and Endor. According to Blighty's top exomoonologist, there might even be more than one inhabited moon circling the newly discovered gas giant.

Corot-9b orbits a G3 star not unlike our own sun, lying some 460 parsecs off in the constellation Serpens Cauda. The new world is reckoned to be very similar in size and makeup to the biggest planets in our star system, Jupiter and Saturn. Scanning it in detail is possible because its orbit takes it in front of its sun as viewed from Earth, making it easy to learn things about it.

Investigating boffins have been probing the far-flung giant planet since April 2008 using the COROT (COnvection ROtation and planetary Transits) space telescope in orbit above Earth. They believe that, like Jupiter and Saturn, it is a gas giant planet made up largely of hydrogen and helium.

The interesting thing about Corot-9b, however - as compared to other such planets glimpsed so far across the vasty voids of interstellar space - is that it lies at such a distance from its parent sun that liquid water could perhaps exist in its vicinity. An international team of scientists has calculated that temperatures at the planetary "gaseous surface" are "expected to be between 160 degrees and minus 20 degrees Celsius", according to Dr Henri Boffin of the European Southern Observatory. The ESO's groundbased instruments also contributed to the research.

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