Iceball Planet With Earth's Mass Discovered Through Microlensing

Posted: Apr 27 2017, 1:38pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Iceball Planet With Earth's Mass Discovered Through Microlensing
This artist's concept shows OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, a planet discovered through microlensing. Korea Microlensing Telescope Network (KMTNet), operated by the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, used to track the microlensing event and find the planet. Although OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is about the same mass as Earth, and the same distance from its host star as our planet is from our sun, the similarities may end there. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • This planet is nearly 13,000 light-years away and orbits a star so small, scientists aren't sure if it's a star at all.

An earth-like alien planet has been discovered by astronomers that happens to be an ice ball.

Scientists have detected a novel planet with the same mass as that of the earth. It is in orbit around a star that is the same distance from the planet as the sun is from our earth.

Yet the strange thing is that despite there being the right conditions for life to flourish on this planet, it is a virtual ball of ice and thus too frigid and freezing to be able to support life forms on it.

However, this discovery will allow us to gain greater savvy regarding planetary systems outside our own solar system. This ice ball of a planet is the lowest mass planet found via microlensing.

"This 'iceball' planet is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing," said Yossi Shvartzvald, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Microlensing uses background stars as light sources in order to discover long range objects in space. When one star passes before a brighter star, the gravity of the former focuses the light of the latter so that it becomes even more refulgent.

An object in the form of a blip in the brightness could be viewed with ease. In the case of this ice ball planet, the blip lasted a couple of hours only.

The farthest exoplanets from our solar system could be detected via this method. This new planet is termed OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovered this planet.

While there are only a handful of planetary systems outside our own that resemble it even remotely, the overall scheme of planets suggests that they are less likely to be present in the center of our galaxy than in the disk.

Three wide-field telescopes in Chile, Australia and South Africa respectively were used in the viewing effort engaged in by the group of astronomers. Microlensing took place on an intensive basis.

This ball of ice is located 13,000 light years away from our earth. It orbits a star that is so small, that the scientists are not sure whether it is a star or not. Some say it is a brown dwarf.

On the contrary, it could be a an ultra-cool dwarf star much in the same manner as TRAPPIST-1. However, this earth-like planet is extremely cold. This rules out any chances of life being present on its surface.

Microlensing is indeed a very sophisticated method of peering out into outer space. Astronomers get to see the wondrous designs and patterns of planets, stars and galaxies that keep receding further and further from us in the folds of the expanding universe

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