An international team of scientists has discovered a planet the size of Earth in the Milky Way, which, according to a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, is not tied to any particular star in terms of gravity.
To date, more than four thousand planets have been discovered outside of our solar system, the vast majority of which orbit a particular star.
Although the theories about the formation and evolution of planets predict the existence of free moving bodies in space, some of them have only been identified in recent years, given the difficulties involved.
One of the most common methods of finding exoplanets is to discover the contrast of light 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 that result from their movements around the star.
Since none of these strategies are designed to detect planets moving alone in the galaxy, astronomers use a phenomenon known as the “microgravity lens” to find them.
It is considered to be the result of general relativity, which predicts that a massive object will bend the path of light coming from another object behind it.
The researchers described in a statement that this phenomenon “acts like a giant magnifying glass”, making it easier to observe distant objects.
“The chances of seeing the microscopic lens are very slim because three things – the source, the lens, and the observer – should be perfectly coordinated,” said the lead author and researcher at the California Institute of Technology. Przemik Mroz.
Because of this, detection programs for these types of astronomical phenomena track hundreds of millions of stars in the center of the Milky Way to increase the likelihood of finding one.
In this case, astronomers used data from the Warsaw Telescope, a device with a 1.3 m diameter lens located at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.
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