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Cold Earth-Size Planet Circling a Red Dwarf

4 Jul 2014, 22:00 UTC
Cold Earth-Size Planet Circling a Red Dwarf
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Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a planet in a binary star system.An international team of astronomers has reported the discovery of a planet with twice the mass of Earth circling one of two stars in a binary star system. The discovery was published in the July 4 issue of the journal Science. Both stars in the binary system are red dwarfs that are much cooler and fainter than the Sun. The planet, identified as OGLE-2013-BLG-0341Bb, was detected using a technique known as gravitational microlensing. In 2013, the two red dwarfs happen to pass almost directly in front of a more distant background star. As a result, the gravity of the two red dwarfs acted as a “lens”, magnifying light from the background star. The gravitational microlensing event is represented by a light-curve depicting the brightening of the background star. Based on the light-curve, the presence of the planet was determined from a small “dip” in the light-curve several days before the main magnification event. Additionally, the planet’s presence was also inferred from its distortion of the main magnification event.Figure 2: Light-curve of the gravitational microlensing event as recorded by a number of observatories. (Top) Light-curve features “C to F” are ...

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