Hubble Telescope Spots a Distant Planet Orbiting Twin Suns

Hubble Telescope Spots a Distant Planet Orbiting Twin Suns

The planet orbits the stars once every seven years at a distance of around 300 million miles, roughly about as far as it is from our sun to the asteroid belt.

"The ground-based observations suggested two possible scenarios for the three-body system: a Saturn-mass planet orbiting a close binary star pair or a Saturn-mass and an Earth-mass planet orbiting a single star", NASA's David Bennett explained in a press release.

As microlensing events are, by their nature, one-offs, astronomers needed another way to confirm the nature of OGLE-2007-BLG-349 and Hubble has been used to zoom in on the star system that triggered the 2007 brightening.

The two red dwarf stars are just 7 million miles apart, or about 14 times the diameter of the Moon's orbit around Earth.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of global cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency.

The objects were initially discovered by an global consortium in 2007, and the researchers have determined that the planet orbits around the stars at a distance of approximately 300 million miles, or roughly the same distance between the sun and our asteroid belt.

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The event, OGLE-2007-BLG-349, was detected during the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE). The event was observed in 2007, making this the first circumbinary planet to be confirmed following detection of a microlensing event. Therefore, it's also thought that about half of all exoplanet host stars are binaries as well. The system is too far away for Hubble to photograph the planet. Gravitational microlensing occurs when the gravity of a foreground star bends and amplifies the light of a background star that momentarily aligns with it.

Thanks to powerful images from the Hubble Space Telescope and a trick of light and gravity, astronomers have confirmed the existence of a gas giant planet that orbits a pair of stars near the centre of our galaxy. The Hubble telescope recently discovered a new planet about the size of Saturn that orbits around two stars near the center of the Milky Way.

Now that the team has shown that microlensing can successfully detect planets orbiting double-star systems, Hubble could provide an essential role in this new realm in the continued search for exoplanets.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope and a technique called gravitational microlensing, they've figured out that it's the first scenario: one big planet and two stars. Only a handful of planets have been found in binary star systems.

It turns out that OGLE-2007-BLG-349 was caused by a planet orbiting two stars, both tiny red dwarfs, drifting in front of a more distant bright star.

According to Universe Today, with Hubble Telescope's sharp eyesight, astronomers were able to separate the lensing star and the background source star from their neighbors in the very crowded star field. Scientists estimate that half the stars are actually duos, which could mean that about half of exoplanets, or planets that orbit stars other than our sun, could be circumbinary. The level of brightness Hubble recorded is associated most closely with two red dwarf stars orbiting close to each other.

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