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This Earth-sized rogue planet is a maverick in the Milky Way



This illustration shows a microlensing event highlighting a rogue planet.

Jan Skowron / Astronomical Observatory, University of Warsaw

Most planets play by the rules. They orbit a star. They are predictable. Steady. The kind of planet you bring home to your parents. But some planets are liberal thinkers and a team led by astronomers at the University of Warsaw has found a particularly wild planet that spoofed its own path in their Milky Way. me.

Exoplanets (a planet outside of our solar system) do not appear to be bound to a normal orbit around a star, making it a particularly rare discovery.

The researchers announced the discovery of “the smallest free-floating planet on Earth found so far”

; in a statement last week and published an article in The Astrophysical Journal. Letters. We have seen evidence of previously rogue planetsBut not with this small.

The planet’s size, nature and path mean it cannot be detected by our conventional planet detection tricks. Instead, researchers have harnessed the power of attractive microlensing, a technique inspired by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Astronomers can use the gravitational pull of space objects such as stars as a large magnifying glass, allowing us to see far and deep into space.

A NASA video explains this concept as it applies to rogue planets.

The University of Warsaw’s OGLE survey is looking out into space for the microscopic events between hundreds of millions of stars. In this case, the spurious planet passes in front of a star, causing short deflection and focus, causing the star’s noticeable glow when seen by telescopes on Earth. .

“Micro events are thought to be due to the free-floating planets that take a few hours,” the university said. “By measuring the duration of a microlensing event (and the shape of its light curve), we can estimate the mass of the lens object.” The team discovered a spoof planet the size of Earth through a microlensing event (officially known as OGLE-2016-BLG-1928) that lasted a mere 42 minutes.

The planet would form like any other planet, but was subsequently expelled from its solar system through interactions with other planets or space objects. These fake planets could provide us with insights into the early days of our system.

Astronomers love to find out what common rogue small planets can be. This may just be the tip of the cosmic iceberg. We should learn more than once NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman space telescope goes into service in the mid-2020s. Until then, we can celebrate the discovery of a space-traveling free-spirited soul reminding us (just a little) of Earth.


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