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Beyond Earthly Skies

Red Dwarf Stars and Saturn-Mass Planets

21 Apr 2016, 22:00 UTC
Red Dwarf Stars and Saturn-Mass Planets
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When a foreground star happens to cross the line-of-sight to a distant background star, the gravitational field of the foreground star can act as a lens, magnifying light from the background star. The brightening of the background star is recorded in the form of a light curve as the foreground star crosses its line-of-sight. If the foreground star hosts a planet, the gravitational field of the planet can induce a "blip" in the light curve. This phenomenon is known as gravitational microlensing and it is one of the methods used to detect planets around other stars.Figure 1: Artist's impression of a Saturn-mass planet.Using this technique, Hirao et al. (2016) present the discovery of a Saturn-mass planet around a red dwarf star with ~30 percent the mass of the Sun. The planet is identified as OGLE2012-BLG-0724Lb. By analysing the gravitational microlensing light curve, the planet is estimated to have ~0.47 times the mass of Jupiter and its estimated projected separation from its host star is ~1.6 AU.The discovery of this Saturn-mass planet around a red dwarf star adds to the population of known sub-Jupiters (i.e. planets with 0.2 to 1.0 times the mass of Jupiter) around red dwarf stars. On the ...

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