Skip to comments.New planet discovered in Milky Way
Posted on 01/25/2006 5:56:47 PM PST by nickcarraway
Scientists have discovered a planet more like Earth than any other found before, they said on Wednesday. It's 20,000 light-years away, just shy of the center of the Milky Way.
The discovery, which the scientists called "groundbreaking," was made using a technique noted in 1912 by Albert Einstein through a network of telescopes positioned around the globe. The planet takes the nondescript name "OGLE-2005-BLG-390" after one such telescope, named OGLE, for Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment.
OGLE, based in Poland's Warsaw University Observatory, was first used to spot the object on July 11, 2005.
"This planet is actually the first and only planet that has been discovered so far that is in agreement with the theories for how our solar system formed," said Uffe Grae Jorgensen, a scientist with the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, and a member of the team who detected the planet.
The planet is five times the mass of Earth, but it's still considered the smallest and coolest ever detected outside of the solar system, according to the scientists. It circles a red parent star, which is five times smaller than the Sun, in about 10 years. Because the parent star is cool and within a large orbit, scientists believe OGLE's surface is icy and too cold for liquid water at an estimated 220 degrees Centigrade below zero.
Scientists also predict it has a thin atmosphere, like Earth, with a rocky surface buried deep under frozen oceans. These characteristics would make it a larger version of Pluto, rather than the rocky inner solar planets like Earth and Venus, they say.
The discovery was reported in this week's issue of Nature.
The method used to detect the planet is called "microlensing." Planetary team member Andrew Williams, of Australia's Perth Observatory, explained it as a method of allowing the gravity of a dim, intervening star to act as a giant natural telescope, magnifying a more distant star, which then temporarily looks brighter for about a month.
"A small 'defect' in the brightening reveals the existence of a planet around the lens star. We don't see the planet, or even the star that it's orbiting; we just see the effect of their gravity," he said.
In other news: Special report: Pixar goes to Hollywood Steve Jobs rides high in Disney buyout NSA gives tips on editing documents Newsmaker: The man behind Sun's x86 effort Got a question on Windows Vista? Submit your questions for Microsoft's Jim Allchin Any other planets orbiting the star can produce an additional signal. Those signals can last for days if it's a giant planet or for hours if it's of a smaller mass, like Earth.
Microlensing involves nearly continuous monitoring of the stars through various telescopes around the world. What's called the Planet Network operates such a telescope network, with telescopes in Chile, Tasmania, Australia, South Africa, Spain and Hawaii, among other locations. Once the OGLE telescope spotted the planet, the network was triggered to begin taking continuous data.
Jean-Philippe Beaulieu, a scientist at the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, said that only three planets have been discovered through miscrolensing techniques. "While the other two microlensing planets have masses of a few times that of Jupiter, the discovery of a 5 Earth mass planet--though much harder to detect than more massive ones--is a strong hint that these lower-mass objects are very common," he said in a statement.
Well ... start pointing SETI towards it then !
220 below zero? Guess we'll have to bring our scarfs and mittens.
could this be the planet of prehistoric hyannis orcinus, is there scotch underneath all that ice?
Has Zephron Cochran been born yet?
Residents of Roswell, New Mexico, will be happy to hear this.
Cool, do they know if there's any good skiing? ;)
"...More than 170 planets have been discovered outside our Solar System. Astronomers usually detect them by watching how they make their parent star wiggle, a technique known as the Doppler method. This is ideal if you are looking for massive planets orbiting very close to their star, which induce a lot of wobble."
"But there is no way this can be used to find small, blue-green planets approximately 150 million kilometres from a yellow sun. It is simply not sensitive enough, says Didier Queloz, an astronomer from Geneva Observatory in Switzerland who was part of the team that found the first extrasolar planet, just 11 years ago."
"The new sighting relies on an effect called gravitational lensing, where a massive object such as a star warps space so that it behaves like a lens. This means that it bends and slightly magnifies light from a more distant star before it reaches our telescopes. Adding a planet to the mix modifies the lensing effect by a tiny amount, just enough to work out its mass and orbit..."
Scientists should really refrain from making value judgments...
cool, maybe we can jump on before earth ends up burned up as stated in another post. Earth has it's last days coming up.
I'm really impressed that their telescopes are so good that they can distinguish homely planets from good-looking ones at that distance.
SPACE GEEK ALERT!
If I can thread poach a little... I know some of the people on this thread are already "FOLDING" but for those who aren't, there is now a major project by FReepers and others regarding protein folding and distributed computing. The effort is dedicated to Ronald Reagan.
FReepers are ranked nationally (top 360 almost) in our efforts to help this massive science project. Please join us if you would like to contribute and "Fold one for the Gipper". Here is one of several threads that can help point you to start donating your unused CPUs if you are interested.
Callin' all SPACE GEEKS! JOIN us!
Can we send the socialists there to create their utopia (and leave the rest uf us alone)?
Although, the "Global Warming" crowd should feel quite at home.
The others have all been much larger planets. Many a lot larger than Jupiter. If they were a little bigger, they'd be stars in their own right. Most of the discoveries of extra solar planets have relied on techniques which measure the effect of the planet on it's parent star. Since it takes a big planet to move a star in a measurable way, only large planets have been discovered.
Most of those planets have been quite close to the parent star as well, also due to the one of the techniques for detecting them, so they've been HOT as well as HUGE.
"Or something" perhaps. Black holes, unless truly tiny, would make their presence known in other ways, although there cases of multiple star systems where one of the "stars" is actually a black hole. Other stars would also be "visible", or at least their spectrum would be.
Basically, if it's considerably lighter than a star, and isn't glowing, then it's a planet, almost by definition.