STATES CHRONICLE – have unveiled a new icy planet by using microlensing technology. The planet has approximately the same mass as the Earth, and it is orbiting around is a star at about the same distance Terra orbits out the sun. Nevertheless, this planet is too cold to be able to support life because the star it orbits is too faint. This new finding help astronomers better understand the planetary systems located beyond our own.
The icy planet is situated at about the same distance from its star as Earth is from our sun
Yossi Shvartzvald, the lead author of the study and a NASA postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, claimed that the icy planet was unveiled through microlensing and it is the lowest-mass celestial body ever revealed through this revolutionary technology. Microlensing is a new technique which helps astronomers spot distant planets by utilizing background stars as a flashlight and establish whenever a distant object passes right in front of those stars.
When a celestial object blocks the light of a bright star in the background, the foreground star’s gravity captures the light if the background star which will appear as brighter. A distant planet which circles a foreground star may determine an additional glimmer in the brightness of the star. Thus, this blip or glimmer lasted for just a few hours. This incredible technique helped scientists identify the most distant exoplanets from Earth.
The low mass exoplanet was identified trough microlensing
The new planet was called OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, and it is bound to be very useful in scientists’ quest to reveal the distribution of planets in a galaxy. They want to establish whether there exists any difference between the frequency of celestial objects in the central curvature of the Milky Way compared to its disk.
OGLE-2016-BLG-1195 is situated in the disk together with two other planets which were previously identified by scientists through microlensing. They used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Geoff Bryden is the co-author of the study and an astronomer at JPL. He stated that even if they had only a few planetary systems which had well-determined distances even if they are located far from our solar system, the lack of detections in the center part of the Milky Way might indicate that planets are less common in that area.
When developing the new study, researchers were guided towards the initial microlensing event by OGLE (the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment) survey conducted by the University of Warsaw in Poland. To track the event from our planet, study authors utilized KMTNet (the Korea Microlensing Telescope Network).
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Image courtesy of: nasa gov