A new study by an international group of astrophysicists led by the Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics has unveiled an amazing new discovery of an almost identical twin of Jupiter orbiting a star at a colossal distance of 17,000 light-years from Earth.
The exoplanet K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb, almost identical to Jupiter in mass and distance from the Sun, was discovered using data obtained in 2016 by the NASA Kepler Space Telescope. The exoplanetary system is twice as far as any previously seen by Kepler, who discovered more than 2,700 confirmed planets before shutting down in 2018.
The system was discovered by gravitational microlens, a prediction of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and is the first planet discovered from space in this way. The study was sent to the journal Monthly reports of the Royal Astronomical Society and was available as a preprint on ArXiv.org.
Ph.D. Student David Specht of the University of Manchester is the lead author of the new study. To find the exoplanet using the microlensing effect, the team conducted a search based on Kepler data collected between April and July 2016, when it regularly observed millions of stars close to the center of the Galaxy. The goal was to find evidence of an exoplanet and a host star that temporarily curved and magnified the light of the background star as it passed in line of sight.
“To see the effect, you need an almost perfect alignment between the front planetary system and the background star,” said Dr. Eamon Kerins, principal researcher on the grant to the Council of Scientific and Technical Institutions (STFC), which funded the work. Dr. Kerins adds: “The probability that the background star will be affected by the planet is tens to hundreds of millions to each other. But in the center of our galaxy there are hundreds of millions of stars. So Kepler just sat and watched them for three months.”
After developing specialized analysis methods, candidate signals were finally identified last year using a new search algorithm presented in a study led by Dr. Ian MacDonald, then a STFC-funded graduate student who worked with Dr. Kerins. Among the five new possible microlensing signals identified in this analysis, one showed clear signs of an anomaly corresponding to the presence of an exoplanet in orbit.
Five international ground surveys also examined the same area of the sky at the same time as Kepler. At a distance of about 135 million km from Earth, Kepler saw the anomaly a little earlier and longer than the teams observed from Earth. A new study exhaustively simulates a combined set of data that definitively shows that the signal is caused by a distant exoplanet.
“The difference in the point of view between Kepler and the observers here on Earth has allowed us to triangulate where the planetary system is located along our line of sight,” says Dr. Kerins.
“Kepler was also able to continuously observe the weather and daylight, which allowed us to accurately determine the mass of the exoplanet and its orbital distance from the host star. It is basically identical to Jupiter’s twin in terms of mass and position from the Sun, which is about 60% the masses of our own Sun ”.
Later in this decade, NASA will launch the Roman Nancy Grace Space Telescope. The novel will potentially find thousands of distant planets using the microlensing method. The European Space Agency’s Euclid mission, to be launched next year, could also search for the microlens exoplanet as an additional scientific activity.
Dr. Kerins is the Deputy Chair of the ESA Euclid Exoplanet Science Working Group. “Kepler was never designed to search for planets by microlensing, so it’s surprising that he did. Roman and Euclid, on the other hand, will be optimized for this kind of work. They will be able to complete the planet’s census started by Kepler.” he said.
“We will learn how typical the architecture of our own solar system is. The data will also allow us to test our ideas about how planets are formed. This is the beginning of a new exciting chapter in our quest for other worlds.”
The Kepler telescope sees the population of free-floating planets
D. Specht et al. Company Kepler K2 9: II. The first discovery of an exoplanet in space by microlensing. arXiv: 2203.16959v1 [astro-ph.EP]arxiv.org/abs/2203.16959
Provided by the Jodrell Bank Astrophysics Center
Citation: The Kepler Telescope delivers a new planetary discovery from the Tomb (2022, April 1), received April 2, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-04-kepler-telescope-planetary-discovery-grave.html
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