New Planet Discovered In Milky Way Is 8 Times The Size Of Jupiter: How Did Scientists Find It?
A new planet was recently discovered in the Milky Way, and it's a whopper. Known as "MOA-2011-BLG-322" (we'll call it MOA for short), the planet is roughly eight times larger than Jupiter, our solar system's largest planet. Jupiter has a diameter 11 times that of Earth, so that gives you an idea of how massive the new planet is.
Scientists have identified nearly a thousand alien worlds beyond our solar system that orbit stars like our sun. The first one was discovered in 1992 more than 1,000 light years from Earth. Scientists now believe one in six stars hosts an Earth-sized planet.
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MOA, a planet 25,000 light years away from Earth deep inside the Milky Way Galaxy, was detected in 2011 but not classified as a planet until more recently.
So how did they find MOA? According to Discovery News, astronomers used a technique called "microlensing" to locate the planet. From Discovery:
Microlensing events occur when a star passes in front of another more distant star. As the nearer star passes in front, its gravitational field - which is (according to general relativity) bending the surrounding spacetime - deflects the light from the more distant star. Like the lens in a magnifying glass, the starlight is magnified and Earth-bound observatories are able to spot a transient brightening. Information about the "lens" (the foreground star) and any planets in tow can then be deduced.
Unfortunately, MOA won't be habitable any time soon. "We'd need to bend space and time to travel there and equip ourselves with mechanical exoskeletons to withstand its powerful gravity," MSN notes.
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