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Stars align to show new planet

Nature volume 524, page 138 (13 August 2015) | Download Citation

Two teams using different telescopes have confirmed that a planet with a mass similar to that of Uranus is orbiting a distant star.

Most known exoplanets orbit close to their stars, but in 2005 researchers using an effect called microlensing spotted a planet with a larger orbit. This effect happens when two stars align: the gravity of the star in front magnifies light from the one behind. Planets in the foreground system can alter this light, which allows them to be detected.

David Bennett at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and his colleagues used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study the light from the microlensing event OGLE-2005-BLG-169 more precisely. Their observations indicated the presence of a planet roughly 14 times heavier than Earth and more than 3 times farther from its star.

Another team that included Bennett, led by Virginie Batista of the Paris Institute of Astrophysics, used the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and found similar properties for the planet.

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