One of two newly found planets was ascertained to be approximately the same distance from its star that Earth is from the Sun. However, this planet has about the same mass as Jupiter, making it likely to be a gas giant but not apt to harbor life. It orbits in an oval around the star HD210277 at a distance of 68 light-years from Earth towards the constellation Aquarius. The other planet discovered orbits quickly and closely around its star, which is an almost-twin of the Sun, called HD187123, in Cygnus's direction. The planet's "year" is a mere three days.
Geoffrey Marcy, of both the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco State University, headed the group that found the planets using Hawaii's Keck telescope. Marcy, along with Paul Butler of Australia's Anglo-Australian Observatory, discovered nine of the twelve extra-solar planets known. Over 50% have oval orbits.
They are now accepting assistance from an unusual source. Kevin Apps, a student at England's University of Sussex, in 1997 courteously asked them via e-mail for a list of their target stars. Marcy sent a copy to him, though he did not expect to hear from the young man again.
Shortly after that, Apps sent them a message about 30 listed stars that were unlikely to have planets. Apps had used new satellite data he had gotten from the Internet regarding these stars' compositions, luminosities and temperatures, etc. Marcy was initially taken aback until his team checked the work, finding it to be valid. Apps next sent a list of 30 other stars he said were more likely to have planets. One of them was HD187123, which Marcy's team had recently discovered.
Though Marcy and Apps have, as of September 24, 1998, yet to meet, Marcy said of Apps: "He is now our main source of target stars."
Source: Washington Post, 9/24/98