An international team of scientists has discovered a planet the size of Earth in the Milky Way galaxy, and it is not linked in terms of gravity to a specific star, according to a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
So far, more than 4 thousand planets have been discovered outside our solar system, the vast majority of them orbiting a specific star.
Although the theories of the emergence and development of planets predict the existence of freely moving bodies in space, only in recent years has some of them begun to be identified, in light of the difficulties facing this.
One of the most common ways to find exoplanets is to discover the light contrast that occurs in a star when an object orbiting it passes in front of its disk at a certain frequency.
It is also possible to infer the existence of planets thanks to the changes in gravity resulting from their movements around the star.
Since neither of these strategies works to detect planets moving alone in the galaxy, astronomers are using a phenomenon known as a “microgravity lens” to find them.
It is considered a result of general relativity, which predicts that a massive object bends the path of light that comes from another object behind it.
The researchers described in a statement that this phenomenon “acts like a huge magnifying glass” that facilitates the observation of distant objects.
“The chances of observing the microscopic lens are very small, because there are three things – the source, the lens, and the observer – that should be perfectly aligned with each other,” said lead author and researcher at the California Institute of Technology, Przemik Mroz.
It is for this reason that detection programs for these types of astronomical phenomena are tracking hundreds of millions of stars in the center of the Milky Way, in order to increase the chances of finding one.
In this case, astronomers used data from the Warsaw Telescope, a device with a 1.3-meter-diameter lens located at the Las Campanas observatory in Chile.
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