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A telescope no larger than those sold at department stores has found a new planet, a Jupiter-sized gas giant orbiting a star about 500 light-years from the Earth in the constellation Lyra, according to Sky and Telescope magazine’s website.

The discovery was made by the Trans-Atlantic Exoplanet Survey (TrES), a network of small, inexpensive telescopes designed to look for planets orbiting bright stars. Scientists David Charbonneau of Caltech, Timothy Brown of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Edward Dunham of Lowell Observatory led the team that developed TrES. The discovery was verified with observations made with the 10-meter Keck I telescope in Hawaii.

S&T notes that the find “heralds the coming of a new era when small telescopes doing wide-field surveys will pinpoint new exoplanets.” Will backyard astronomers be part of the trend?

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