Using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, dubbed the “planet hunter,” astronomers have discovered a planet much like Jupiter orbiting a star 17,000 light-years away from Earth.
The exoplanet, named K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb, is almost a twin of the largest planet in our solar system in terms of mass and distance from its star, as explained by a team of astronomers from Manchester (England) in their study. published on the arXiv preprint server and to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The exoplanetary system is twice as far away as any previously seen by Kepler, which found more than 2,700 confirmed planets before ending operations in 2018.
How did they discover the planet?
The planet is not visible, but astronomers use various methods to infer its presence. In this case, using the gravitational microlensing method, a prediction of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, according to which, when a distant star or quasar becomes sufficiently aligned with a massive compact planar object, the bending of light produced by its gravitational field, leads to two distorted unresolved images that achieve observable magnification.
“Seeing the effect requires near-perfect alignment between the foreground planetary system and a background star,” said Eamonn Kerins, principal investigator for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) grant that funded the research.
There are hundreds of millions of stars toward the center of our galaxy, so even though this effect requires near-perfect alignment between the foreground planetary system and the background star, Kepler simply waited patiently and watched them for three weeks. months until obtaining the successful observation data.
It is the first planet to be discovered from space in this way. And it is located in a region close to the galactic center.
“It is basically the identical twin of Jupiter in terms of its mass and its position relative to its sun, which is about 60 percent the mass of our own sun,” the authors explain.
No doubt. The new study comprehensively models the combined data set and shows conclusively that the signal is caused by a distant exoplanet.
This planet is believed to be gaseous rather than rocky, just like Jupiter. It is estimated, although it is a first estimate, that K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb will take 13 Earth years to orbit its star; Jupiter takes about 12 Earth years to go around the Sun.
“Kepler was never designed to find planets using microlensing, so in many ways it’s surprising that it did. Roman (after American astronomer Nancy Roman) and Euclid (after Greek mathematician Euclid), on the other hand , they will be optimized for this type of work. They will be able to complete the census of planets initiated by Kepler”, the experts conclude.
Characteristics of the new planet:
Name : K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb
Galaxy: Milky Way
Mass: 1.1 megajoules (1.1 times the mass of Jupiter)
Distance from Earth: 17,000 light years
Referencia: D. Specht et al, Kepler K2 Campaign 9: II. First space-based discovery of an exoplanet using microlensing. arXiv:2203.16959v1 [astro-ph.EP], arxiv.org/abs/2203.16959