blah None of the planets is remotely habitable, scientists said.
Both sets of research findings were published Thursday in Science Express, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
A team of American and British astronomers and physicists, using the Gemini North and Keck telescopes on the Mauna Kea mountaintop in Hawaii, observed host star HR8799 to find three of the new planets.
Scientists estimate that HR8799, roughly 1.5 times the size of the sun, is 130 light years from Earth in the constellation of Pegasus. The individual planets in this planetary family are estimated to be seven to 10 times the mass of Jupiter.
* Mission to fix Hubble Telescope postponed
Astronomers say the star is too faint to detect with the human eye, but observers could probably see it through binoculars or small telescopes.
"This discovery is the first time we have directly imaged a family of planets around a normal star outside of our solar system," said Christian Marois, the lead astronomer in the Lawrence Livermore lab study.
About the same time, NASA astronomers using the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope surprised the space community by locating a fourth planet.
NASA's newly discovered planet, Fomalhaut b, is estimated to be roughly three times Jupiter's mass and 10.7 billion miles from its host star, Fomalhaut. NASA's images show Fomalhaut b orbiting the bright southern star Fomalhaut, which is said to be 16 times brighter than our sun and 25 light years away in the constellation Piscis Australis (Southern Fish).
"Our Hubble observations were incredibly demanding. Fomalhaut b is 1 billion times fainter than the star," Hubble astronomer Paul Kalas said. "We began this program in 2001, and our persistence finally paid off."
Previous planet-hunting efforts have relied on the traditional Doppler, or "wobble," technique, which works by measuring the gravitational influence a planet exerts on its host, or parent,...