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Scientists Discover New Gas Giant Exoplanet 3 Times Jupiter’s Size

Dec 16, 2016 04:10 AM EST

A gas giant exoplanet three times the size of Jupiter was discovered beyond the solar system.

An international team of astronomers detected the new exoplanet using the gravitational microlensing method. The exoplanet, which was named OGLE-2014-BLG-0676Lb, is an important addition to the list of exoplanets located outside the solar system that was detected through microlensing, Phys.org reports.

According to the study, which was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the newly discovered exoplanet has a mass of about 3.1 Jupiter masses and orbits its star at a deprojected orbital separation of about 4.4 astronomical units (AU). The planet's host star is about 38 percent smaller than the sun and was classified as a K-dwarf. The distance of the planet to the lens system is about 7,200 light years, the researchers said.

The researchers also noted that the source star is faint and very red, which indicate the possibility that the star may be blended with a red star nearby.

Microlensing is more sensitive in searching for exoplanets that orbit around one to 10 AU away from their host stars than other methods. Planets like OGLE-2014-BLG-0676Lb are of special interest to astronomers studying planetary formation theories due to their closeness to their stars, within the "snow line." According to astronomers, the most active planet formation occurs just beyond the snow line. The discovery of the giant exoplanet could offer insights into how planets form.

Microlensing has so far led to the discovery of 47 planets. Currently, several ground-based observation programs routinely monitor dense stellar fields to search for microlensing events, Phys.org reports. Astronomers are interested in microlensing events that show evidence for perturbations as these could indicate the presence of a planet.

OGLE-2014-BLG-0676 is said to be one of the most interesting microlensing events discovered in April 2014 by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) astronomical project in Poland.

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