NASA's Hubble finds planet orbiting two stars

The US space agency NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found a planet that orbits two stars in the system.

Last Updated: Sep 22, 2016, 22:59 PM IST
NASA's Hubble finds planet orbiting two stars
Photo Credits: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

New Delhi: The US space agency NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found a planet that orbits two stars in the system.

According to NASA, astronomers using Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed the existence of a planet orbiting pair of stars in the system OGLE-2007-BLG-349, located 8,000 light-years away towards the center of our galaxy.

The planet orbits roughly 300 million miles from the stellar duo and completes an orbit around both the stars roughly every seven years. The two red dwarf stars are a mere 7 million miles apart or 14 times the diameter of the moon's orbit around Earth.

The Hubble observations represent the first time such a three-body system has been confirmed using the gravitational microlensing technique. Gravitational microlensing occurs when the gravity of a foreground star bends and amplifies the light of a background star that momentarily aligns with it. The particular character of the light magnification can reveal clues to the nature of the foreground star and any associated planets.

The sharpness of the Hubble images has allowed the research team to separate the background source star and the lensing star from their neighbors in the very crowded star field. The Hubble observations revealed that the starlight from the foreground lens system was too faint to be a single star, but it had the brightness expected for two closely orbiting red dwarf stars, which are fainter and less massive than our sun. 

The team's results have been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.