Kepler telescope delivers new planet discovery from the grave

Color images from CFHT showing the field around K2-2016-BLG-0005 outside (left) and inside (right) the caustic junction. Celestial North points up and East to the left. The magenta crosshair locates the microlens source. Credit: D. Specht et al., Kepler K2 Campaign 9: II. First Space-based Microlensing Exoplanet Discovery, https://arxiv.org/pdf/2203.16959.pdf

A new study by an international team of astrophysicists led by the Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics has presented the stunning new discovery of a nearly identical Jupiter twin orbiting a star a whopping 17,000 light-years from Earth.

the exoplanet, K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb, almost identical in mass and distance from the Sun to Jupiter, was discovered using data obtained in 2016 from NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The exoplanetary system is twice as distant as any previously seen by Kepler, which found over 2,700 confirmed planets before ceasing operations in 2018.

The system was found with Gravity Microlenses, a prediction of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and is the first planet to be discovered from space in this way. The study was submitted to the journal Monthly Bulletins of the Royal Astronomical Society and was made available as a preprint on ArXiv.org.

PhD University of Manchester student David Specht is the lead author of the new research. To find an exoplanet using microlensing, the team scoured Kepler data collected between April and July 2016 when they regularly monitored millions of stars near the center of the galaxy. The goal was to look for evidence of an exoplanet and its host star that momentarily bends and magnifies the light of a background star as it passes line of sight.

“To see the effect at all requires near-perfect alignment between the foreground planetary system and a background star,” said Dr. Eamonn Kerins, Principal Investigator for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) grant that funded the work. dr Kerins adds, “The odds of a background star being affected by a planet in this way are tens to hundreds of millions to one. But there are hundreds of millions of stars at the center of our galaxy. So Kepler just sat and watched them for three months.”

After developing specialized analysis methods, candidate signals were finally uncovered last year using a new search algorithm developed in a study led by Dr. Iain McDonald, who was then an STFC-funded postdoc in collaboration with Dr. Kerins was. Among the five new possible microlensing signals uncovered in this analysis, one showed clear evidence of an anomaly consistent with the presence of an orbiting exoplanet.

Five international ground-based surveys also surveyed the same area of ​​the sky at the same time as Kepler. At a distance of about 135 million km from Earth, Kepler saw the anomaly slightly earlier and longer than the Earth observation teams. The new study fully models the combined data set and shows conclusively that the signal is caused by a distant exoplanet.

“The difference in perspective between Kepler and observers here on Earth allowed us to triangulate where the planetary system is along our line of sight,” says Dr. Kerins.

“Kepler was also able to observe continuously through weather or daylight, allowing us to accurately determine the exoplanet’s mass and its orbital distance host star. It is basically Jupiter’s identical twin in terms of mass and position from its sun, which is about 60% the mass of our own sun.

Later this decade, NASA will launch the Roman Nancy Grace Space Telescope. Roman will potentially find thousands of distant planets using the microlensing method. The European Space Agency’s Euclid mission, due to launch next year, could also conduct a microlensing exoplanet search as an additional scientific activity.

dr Kerins is deputy leader of ESA’s Euclid Exoplanet Science working group. “Kepler was never designed to find microlensed planets, so it’s amazing in many ways that it did. Roman and Euclid, on the other hand, are optimized for this type of work. They will be able to complete the planet census started by Kepler.” he said.

“We will learn how typical the architecture of our own solar system is. The data will also allow us to test our ideas about how planets formed. This is the beginning of a new exciting chapter in our quest for other worlds.”


The Kepler telescope sees the population of free-floating planets


More information:
D. Specht et al., Kepler K2 Campaign 9: II. First space-based discovery of an exoplanet using microlensing. arXiv:2203.16959v1 [astro-ph.EP], arxiv.org/abs/2203.16959

Provided by the Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics

citation: Kepler telescope yields new planetary discovery from the grave (2022, April 1), retrieved April 2, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-04-kepler-telescope-planetary-discovery-grave.html

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