US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers from the University of Canterbury discovered an incredibly rare new super-earth planet in the center of the galaxy. The planet is one of the few that have been discovered with a size and orbit comparable to the earth.
The study was recently published in the Astronomical Journal.
Leading researchers of the discovery, astronomers Dr. Antonio Herrera Martin and associate professor Michael Albrow, both from the University of California School of Physical and Chemical Sciences, are part of an international team of astronomers who collaborated on super-earth research.
Dr. Herrera Martin, lead author of the article, describes the discovery of the planet as incredibly rare.
“To understand the complexity of the rarity of detection, you need to know that the time required to observe the host star was approximately five days, while the planet was discovered only during a slight five-hour distortion of light. After that, we waited for confirmation that this was really caused by another “body”, not a star and not an instrumental error. Then we set about getting the characteristics of a star-planet system,” he says.
Using the Solar System as a guide, the host star makes up about 10% of the mass of our Sun, and the planet has a mass somewhere between the mass of the Earth and Neptune and rotates in orbit between Venus and the Earth. Due to the fact that the host star has less mass than our Sun, the planet will have a year equal to approximately 617 days.
The new planet is one of the few planets outside the Sun that have been discovered with sizes and orbits close to the Earth.
Dr. Herrera Martin explains that the planet was discovered using a technique called gravitational microlensing.
“The combined gravity of the planet and its stars has led to the fact that the light from a more distant background star was magnified in a certain way. “We used telescopes scattered around the world to measure the effect of bending light.”
The microlensing effect is rare, and only one in a million stars in the galaxy is exposed at any given time. In addition, this type of observation is not repeated, and the probability of catching a planet at the same time is extremely low, according to an astronomer at the University of California.
This particular microlensing event was observed during 2018 and was designated as OGLE-2018-BLG-0677. It was independently discovered through an optical gravity licensing experiment (OGLE) using a telescope in Chile and the Korean Microlensing Telescope Network (KMTNet), to which University of California astronomers belong, using three identical telescopes in Chile, Australia and South Africa. KMTNet telescopes are equipped with very large cameras, which the team uses to measure the luminous flux of one hundred million (100,000,000) stars every 15 minutes.
“These experiments detect about 3,000 microlensing events each year, most of which are associated with lensing by single stars,” notes co-author Associate Professor Albrow.
“Dr. Herrera Martin first noticed the unusual shape of the luminous flux from this event and spent months of computational analysis, which led him to conclude that this event was caused by a star and a planet of small mass.”
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