Illustration of the inferred size of another super-earth (center) compared to the land and Neptune.
Astronomers at the University of Canterbury found an incredibly rare new super-earth toward the center of our galaxy. This would be one of the few that has been discovered with a size and orbit similar to Earth. The details were published in Astronomical Journal.
The team managed to measure some of the properties of this new super-earth. Taking our solar system as a reference, they found that this planet would have a mass corresponding to a super-earth or a subneptune. Furthermore, its orbit with respect to its star is similar to the distance of some point between Venus and Earth with respect to the Sun.
In addition, they managed to measure some of the properties of their mother star. It has a mass of approximately 10% of our sun. This causes the planet to take 617 days to make a complete turn; that is, a ‘year’ of 617 days.
This is one of the few exoplanets that have been detected with sizes and orbits similar to Earth.
One in a million
The unique feature that returns this super-earth as one in a million lies in the detection method that was used. Dr. Herrera Martin explained that the planet was discovered thanks to a phenomenon called gravitational microlensing.
Example of a gravitational lens / Wikimedia Commons
“The combined gravity of the planet and its host star caused light from a more distant background star to be magnified in a particular way. We use telescopes distributed around the world to measure the bending effect of light,” said Martin.
In addition, he added that the microlensing effect is very rare. One in a million stars in the galaxy is affected by it at some point. Furthermore, the odds of catching a planet at the same time are extremely low.
“These experiments detect about 3,000 microlensing events each year, most of which are due to individual star lenses,” notes the paper’s co-author, associate professor Albrow.
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