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Three planets orbiting extremely close to its sun – Kepler 18 – have been discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Texas.

The planets, labeled Kepler 18b, Kepler 18c, and Kepler 18d, are closer to its sun than Mercury is to ours. See the graph below. It’s pretty close! Those planets must be hot as all … well, you know. Two of the planets are classified as “Neptune-class” planets, and one is a “Super-Earth,” or a planet with a mass similar to Earth.

The top graphic shows the orbits of the three known planets orbiting Kepler-18 as compared to Mercury's orbit around the Sun. The bottom graphic shows the relative sizes of the Kepler-18 and its known planets to the Sun and Earth. Credit: Tim Jones/McDonald Obs./UT-Austin

Kepler 18 might host other planets, too, according to the release.

Check out this great blog post from Centauri Dreams. It talks a bit more about this discovery and how a different technique called planet validation helped researchers determine that Kepler 18b is indeed planet. (Odds are 700 to 1)

The discovery was due to data from NASA’s Kepler mission, which so far has helped find 24 exoplanets.

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