(ORDO NEWS) — According to NASA, our Milky Way contains at least 100 billion planets. According to other estimates, there may be 100 to 200 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy.
Tel Aviv University researchers have discovered two new planets in the outermost solar systems of the Milky Way galaxy. With the help of the Gaia spacecraft and the team of the European Space Agency (ESA), they discovered giant planets, called Gaia-1b and Gaia-2b.
Gaia’s first successful detection of the new planet was a milestone for the spacecraft. Compared to standing on Earth and looking for nickels on the Moon, Gaia is a stargazing satellite whose job is to map the Milky Way in 3D.
TAU professor Shai Zucker and doctoral student Aviad Panahi led the program.
Professor Zucker said the discovery of the two new planets was made through precise searches using artificial intelligence techniques. Gaia found 40 more candidates. The astronomical community should study their data to establish their planetary nature, as scientists did for the first two candidates.
Because of their size and proximity to their host stars, the two new planets are known as “hot Jupiters”.
“Measurements we made with a telescope in the US confirmed that these are indeed two giant planets, similar in size to the planet Jupiter in our solar system, and located so close to their suns that they orbit in less than four days, that is, each Earth year is comparable to 90 years of the life of this planet,” Professor Zucker explained.
Scientists are discovering exoplanets at a rate never seen before, and significant progress is currently being made.
According to NASA, our Milky Way contains at least 100 billion planets. According to other estimates, there may be 100 to 200 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy. In addition, the number of exoplanets discovered to date exceeds 5,000, and new planets are discovered daily.
Researchers have been studying planets in distant solar systems since 1995 in the hope of learning more about the solar system we live in.
Gaia tracks the location of nearly 2 billion suns – the stars at the center of the solar system – in our galaxy, tracking their position to within millionths of a degree as they rotate around their axis.
An important feature of observational astronomy is that Gaia can follow the brightness of stars by tracking their position, which provides valuable information about the physical characteristics of surrounding celestial bodies. For example, fluctuations in the brightness of two distant stars led to the discovery of two gas giants.
Planets have been found to cause a cyclic dip in the intensity of light reaching us from distant suns because they partially obscure their suns each time they complete an orbit, Aviad Panahi explained.
Using the Large Binocular Telescope, one of the largest telescopes in the world, a tracking measurement was taken to confirm that celestial bodies are in fact planets. An orbiting planet can cause small fluctuations in the motion of a star that can be tracked with a telescope.
In addition to being a significant scientific achievement, this discovery marks another milestone for the Gaia mission, which has already paved the way for a revolution in astronomy.
Doubts have been raised in the past about Gaia’s ability to detect planets by observing partial occulturations that require continuous monitoring over time.
In the aggregate databases obtained from Gaia, the research team used an algorithm specifically designed with Gaia in mind.
Is life possible on these distant new planets?
Since the newly discovered planets are very close to their suns, their temperatures are extremely high, around 1,000 degrees Celsius, which means that life – as we know it – cannot exist there.
“I am convinced that there are countless other planets that have life, and it is reasonable to assume that in the next few years we will find signs of organic molecules in the atmospheres of distant planets.
We will most likely not be able to visit these distant worlds in the near future, but we are just starting the journey and it is very exciting to be a part of this search,” Panahi said.
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