Three planets which are hotter and heavier than Jupiter have been discovered, astronomers said yesterday.

Wasp-3b, Wasp-4b and Wasp-5b, which are hundreds of light years away from Earth, were located by researchers, including Midland scientists, using specialist cameras in the northern and southern hemispheres.

They were identified after scientists recorded the shadow or "dip" they cast when passing in front of their parent star during orbit.

The planets, which lie outside our solar system, are larger than Jupiter.

They are also more than 2,000 degrees hotter, making extra-terrestrial life impossible. Astronomers from St Andrews University in Fife, Queen's University in Belfast and Keele University in Staffordshire were involved in the planet-hunting project.

They say the find gives them crucial information about how a planet's composition can help its chance of survival.

The cameras were set up in La Palma in the Canary Islands and Sutherland in South Africa. They conducted huge "mosaic sweeps" of the sky at night, capturing images of millions of stars.

The data was then analysed at the Haute-Provence Observatory in France. Here the team were able to calculate the weights of the planets. This was done my measuring the "wobble" of the host star as the planet orbits it.