Astronomers discovered a near-identical twin of Jupiter

New planetary discovery from the grave.


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Using data obtained in 2016 by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, an international team of astrophysicists has discovered a near-identical twin of Jupiter. Located almost 17,000 light-years from Earth, the planet K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb is one of the farthest exoplanets scientists have yet found through gravitational microlensing. It is the first planet to be discovered from space in this way.

The exoplanet has almost a similar mass and distance from its star as Jupiter is from Sun.

To find the planet with gravitational microlensing, the team observed data from Kepler obtained between April and July 2016. They wanted to find evidence for an exoplanet and its host star temporarily bending and magnifying the light from a background star as it passes by the line of sight.

Dr. Eamonn Kerins, Principal Investigator for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) grant that funded the work, said“To see the effect requires almost perfect alignment between the foreground planetary system and a background star. The chance that a background star is affected this way by a planet is tens to hundreds of millions to one against. But there are hundreds of millions of stars towards the center of our Galaxy. So Kepler just sat and watched them for three months.”

An animation of the gravitational lensing signal from Jupiter twin K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb. The local star field around the system is shown using real colour imaging obtained with the ground-based Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope by the K2C9-CFHT Multi-Color Microlensing Survey team. The star indicated by the pink lines is animated to show the magnification signal observed by Kepler from space. The trace of this signal with time is shown in the lower right panel. On the left is the derived model for the lensing signal, involving multiple images of the star caused by the gravitational field of the planetary system. The system itself is not directly visible.

“Kepler was also able to observe uninterrupted by weather or daylight, allowing us to determine precisely the mass of the exoplanet and its orbital distance from its host star. It is Jupiter’s identical twin in terms of its mass and its position from its Sun, which is about 60% of the mass of our own Sun.”

Journal Reference:

  1. D. Specht, R. Poleski, M.T. Penny et al. Kepler K2 Campaign 9: II. First space-based discovery of an exoplanet using microlensing. arXiv:2203.16959


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