Astronomers detect Uranus-like Planet
Astronomers have spotted an ice giant planet circling an alien star. The exoplanet known as OGLE-2008-BLG-092L looks similar to our own solar system's planet Uranus.
The planet is part of a double-star system and is 25,000 light-years away from Earth.
An international research team led by Radek Poleski, post-doctoral researcher at the Ohio State University, reported that the planet is four times bigger compared to Uranus and orbits its star at about the same distance that Uranus orbits our solar system's sun.
It sits in a binary star system, which lies in our Milky Way galaxy, in the direction of Sagittarius. The binary system contains one star that is about two thirds as massive as our sun and one that is about one sixth as massive.
Planets like Uranus and Neptune contain mostly hydrogen and helium, but also large amounts of methane ice, which gives them bluish appearance.
The planet was detected as through a phenomenon known as gravitational microlensing, in which the gravity of a star focuses on the light of a more distant one in a magnification process similar to a lens.
The Warsaw Telescope in Chile observed two such events, first finding the main star, and then the second and confirming the existence of this new planet.
Polesk said, "Only microlensing can detect these cold ice giants that, like Uranus and Neptune, are far away from their host stars. This discovery demonstrates that microlensing is capable of discovering planets in very wide orbits".
After the analysis, the masses of the two stars and the planet and their distances from one another were calculated.
The Ohio State University described the discovery in a paper appearing online in The Astrophysical Journal.
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