'Iceball' Planet discovered through Microlensing

NASA scientists discover 'Iceball' planet through microlensing. The new planet is likely far too cold to be habitable for life because its star is so is so faint.

Created On: Apr 27, 2017 16:19 ISTModified On: Apr 27, 2017 16:46 IST

NASA scientists have discovered a new planet- OGLE-2016-BLG-1195lb- that has the same mass as Earth and orbits its star from the same distance as Earth orbits the sun.

The findings were reported in a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The discovery adds to the scientist’s understanding of the types of planetary systems existing beyond Earth.

 New Iceball planet

Key Highlights

• The newly discovered planet is nearly 13,000 light-years away and orbits a small star.

• According to scientists the planet is likely to be too cold to sustain life, as its star is so faint.

• The planet, referred to as ‘iceball’ due to its probable cold state, is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing.

• It would help scientists figure out the distribution of planets in Milky Way.

• The planet is located in the disk of our galaxy, on its fringe like two planets detected previously through microlensing by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

• This discovery was made through the Korea Microlensing Telescope Network (KMTNet), which is operated by both the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute and Spitzer.

• The KMTNet consists of three wide-field telescopes, one in Chile, one in Australia and one in South Africa.\

NASA’s Cassini enters the never before explored region

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What is Microlensing?

• It is a technique that aids the discovery of distant objects by using background stars as flashlights.

• When a star crosses from the front of a bright star, the gravity of the star in the front focuses the light of the background star, making it appear brighter.

• So, a planet orbiting the foreground star may cause a glitch in its brightness.

• The technique has helped in the discovery of the most distant known exoplanets from Earth.

• It can also help detect low-mass planets that are considerably farther from their stars than Earth is from the sun.

• In the case of this discovery, the blip lasted only for a few hours.

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