Distant gas giant challenges our understanding of planetary formation

A giant exoplanet orbits a tiny star, upending scientists' understanding of planetary formation. The newly-discovered world and its pathetic little sun were announced in the latest issue of Science.

"It's exciting because we've wondered for long a time whether giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn can form around such small stars," said Prof Peter Wheatley, from the University of Warwick, UK, who was not involved with the latest study.

"I think the general impression had been that these planets just didn't exist, but we couldn't be sure because small stars are very faint, which makes them difficult to study, even though they are much more common than stars like the Sun," he told BBC News.

These things are all relative; the M-type red dwarf is still has 270 times the mass of the planet, which has about half the mass of Jupiter.

Image: University of Bern