One In A Million: Astronomers Find Super-Earth With an Earth-Like Orbit

The University of Canterbury (UC) astronomers discovered a magnificent new exoplanet near the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy. The planet is significant since it is one of just a few comparable exoplanets discovered so far.

The super-Earth, according to the experts, is comparable to Earth in both size and orbit.

Dr. Antonio Herrera Martin and Associate Professor Michael Albrow of the University of California's School of Physical and Chemical Sciences in the College of Science collaborated with worldwide researchers to discover the super-Earth.

The planet is said to be an uncommon world in the universe. The super-Earth, according to the astronomers, is in orbit around a dim dwarf, possibly a brown dwarf or a failed star. The extraterrestrial world circles its star in around 617 Earth days, but its orbit would be halfway between Earth and Venus in our own solar system.

According to UC, astronomers used the solar system as a reference point. The host star is around 10% the mass of our Sun. The planet's mass is believed to be between that of Earth and that of Neptune, and its orbit is estimated to be between that of Earth and that of Venus. It's one of just a few exoplanets found by astronomers that are similar in size and orbit to Earth.

The scientists did not uncover the super-Earth by directly monitoring it, not by utilising the transit technique or examining how it interacts with its star. Scientists discovered the super-Earth by looking at how its host star distorts and magnifies light like a lens, a process known as gravitational microlensing.

Dr. Herrera Martin explained: “The combined gravity of the planet and its host star caused the light from a more distant background star to be magnified in a particular way. We used telescopes distributed around the world to measure the light-bending effect,”

It is extremely rare to discover a planet by microlensing. Microlensing effects, according to scientists, affect approximately one in a million stars in the Milky Way at any given time. What makes this discovery even more interesting is that such an observation is not common.

"The chances of catching a planet at the same time are exceedingly slim," said UC astronomers.

OGLE-2018-BLG-0677 is the formal name of the microlensing event that led to the discovery of the exoplanet.