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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Discover Light-Bending Worlds With Two Suns

Sep 23, 2016 04:03 AM EDT

The Hubble Space Telescope is man's eye that peeks into the heart of the universe. With the innovative scientific equipment Hubble is using as well as new and advanced technology, it was able to discover rare systems in the galaxy where two suns orbit light-bending worlds.

Based on Hubble's observation, astronomers were able to identify a distant planet that oddly orbits not one but two stars. It's warping of "spacetime" has also been confirmed by project scientists manning the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The distant planet was identified due to its behavior called "microlensing" when a light is bent due to a disturbance by an object's gravitational field. Microlensing has already been observed as early as 2007, however, this is the first time a planet that orbits two Suns, also known as "circumbinary" planet was confirmed by following the microlensing or light-bending activity.

The circumbinary planet is not a natural occurrence because most exoplanets in the universe usually orbit just one star. NASA's Kepler mission tracked the transit system to detect circumbinary instead of microlensing. But aside from the rarity of the method used, experts say that the latest discovered planet is very unusual.

This newly discovered planet, however, is very unusual. "The exoplanet was observed as a microlensing event in 2007. A detailed analysis revealed a third lensing body in addition to the star and planet that were quite obvious from the data," David Bennett from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA, lead author of the study said in a press release.

The detected event is called OGLE-2007-BLG-349 and was identified during the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) based on the observation on "small distortions" of spacetime. Stars and exoplanets cause the distortions, in the same manner, that Einstein had predicted in his very own theory of General Relativity.

However, further analysis is required as OGLE is incapable of confirming the other details of OGLE-2007-BLG by itself, like the nature of the third and unknown lensing body. Experts suggest using models to further explain the distortions and light curves. Data from Hubble Space Telescope is vital in helping experts to detect circumbinary planets.

"OGLE has detected over 17 ,000 microlensing events, but this is the first time such an event has been caused by a circumbinary planetary system," explains Andrzej Udalski from the University of Warsaw, Poland, co-author of the study.

This process allowed scientist to conclude that although Kepler is capable of detecting circumbinary, using OGLE and Hubble to detect microlensing enable experts to identify circumbinary planets at far distances from their stars.

This pioneering discovery suggests some intriguing possibilities. While Kepler is more likely to detect planets with small orbits -- and indeed all the circumbinary planets it discovered are very close to the lower limit of a stable orbit -- microlensing allows planets to be found at distances far from their host stars.


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