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Giant Planet in the Habitable Zone

28 Oct 2013, 10:00 UTC
Giant Planet in the Habitable Zone
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Gravitational microlensing has led to the detection of planets with masses ranging from more than Jupiter to a few times the mass of Earth. It involves measuring the magnification of light from a distant background star due to the lensing effect by the gravitational field of a foreground star. During a microlensing event, a lightcurve of the background star is produced as the foreground star crosses in front of it. The presence of planets around the foreground star can produce sharp deviations in the otherwise smooth and symmetric lightcurve of the background star.Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a habitable Earth-like moon around a gas giant planet.Figure 2: An illustration of a microlensing event of a distant background star by a foreground star with and without a planet.Using the Keck telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, a team of astronomers observed a microlensing event and reported the discovery of a gas giant planet that is probably within the habitable zone of its parent star. This planet is identified as MOA-2011-BLG-293Lb. It has a mass of 4.8 ± 0.3 Jupiter mass and orbits its parent star at a distance of 1.1 ± 0.1 AU, where one AU is the ...

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