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NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Finds Distant Planet, Using Microlensing Technique

Like early explorers mapping the continents of our globe, astronomers are busy charting the spiral structure of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Using infrared images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists have discovered that the Milky Way's elegant s

Distant planet called ‘Ogle-2014-BLG-0124Lb’, with a mass thought to be half of Jupiter was foudn 13,000 light years away. (NASA)

NASA’s spitzer telescope has found a gas planet as far away as 13,000 light years away, the distant celestial body known in the category, called ‘Ogle-2014-BLG-0124Lb’. The gas giant planet is thought to be half the mass of Jupiter.

Underlining the spitzer telescope discovery, scientists said Spitzer can be used further to see how planets are distributed throughout the spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy and how evenly they are spread over.

“We don’t know if planets are more common in our galaxy’s central bulge or the disk of the galaxy, which is why these observations are so important,” said Jennifer Yee of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, who is also a NASA Sagan fellow, whose paper has been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Using microlensing or finding star behind a tracked star in the foreground, scientists are able to find many more planets in the galaxy. The technique has added 30 new planets to the discovery of distant planets of about 25,000 light years away.

Co-author Andrew Gould of the Ohio State University, Columbus adds: “They can, in principle, tell us the relative efficiency of planet formation across this huge expanse of our galaxy.”

Microlensing, though lacks distance and location precision, complements NASA’s Kepler mission, which has found more than 1,000 planets so far in the nearest galaxy of ours.

Spitzer circling our sun, is currently about 128 million miles away from Earth, and watches a microlensing event simultaneously with a telescope on Earth (Chile) but cannot provide distance as it sees the star brighten at a different time, due to the large distance between the two telescopes and their unique vantage points, known as parallax.

Spitzer will watch 120 more microlensing events this summer, said Sebastiano Calchi Novati, a Visiting Sagan Fellow at NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. “Now we can use these single lenses to do statistics on planets as a whole and learn about their distribution in the galaxy,” he said.

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