SPACE experts have spied an incredibly rare new Super-Earth, in a significant boost in the search for alien life.
The Super-Earth exoplanet lies close to the centre of the galaxy. The planet is one of only a handful which have been discovered with both size and orbit comparable to that of Earth. Astronomer Dr Antonio Herrera Martin, the University of Canterbury paper’s lead author, described the planet-finding discovery as incredibly rare.
He said: “To have an idea of the rarity of the detection, the time it took to observe the magnification due to the host star was approximately five days, while the planet was detected only during a small five-hour distortion.
“After confirming this was indeed caused by another ’body’ different from the star, and not an instrumental error, we proceeded to obtain the characteristics of the star-planet system.”
The host star is approximately 10 percent the mass of our Sun.
The planet has been calculated to have a mass somewhere between that of Earth and Neptune.
And the celestial body is believed to have an orbit at a location between Venus and Earth from the parent star.
Due to the host star having a smaller mass than our Sun, the planet would have a “year” of approximately 617 days.
The new planet is among only a handful of extra-solar planets to have both a sizes and orbit comparable to that of Earth.
Dr Herrera Martin revealed the planet was discovered using a technique called gravitational microlensing.
He said: “The combined gravity of the planet and its host star caused the light from a more distant background star to be magnified in a particular way.
“We used telescopes distributed around the world to measure the light-bending effect.”
The microlensing effect is rare, with only about one in a million stars in the galaxy being affected at any given time.
In addition, this type of observation does not repeat and the probabilities of catching a planet at the same time are extremely low.
This particular microlensing event was observed during 2018 and designated OGLE-2018-BLG-0677.
The extraordinary find was independently detected by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment using a telescope in Chile, and the Korea Microlensing Telescope Network (KMTNet).
The team used three identical telescopes in Chile, Australia, and South Africa to find the exoplanet.
The KMTNet telescopes are equipped with very large cameras, which the team uses to measure the light output from around one hundred million stars every 15 minutes.
Associate Professor Albrow, the paper’s co-author, said: “These experiments detect around 3000 microlensing events each year, the majority of which are due to lensing by single stars.
“Dr Herrera Martin first noticed an unusual shape to the light output from this event, and undertook months of computational analysis.
“This resulted in the conclusion that this event was due to a star with a low-mass planet.”
Space news: The Super-Earth exoplanet lies close to the centre of the galaxy. (Image: Getty)What is The Goldilocks Zone:
US-based space agency NASA has revealed scientists searching for alien life can relate to Goldilocks.
For many years they looked around the solar system. Mercury and Venus were too hot.
Mars and the outer planets were too cold. Only Earth was just right for life, they thought.
Our planet has liquid water, a breathable atmosphere, a suitable amount of sunshine. Perfect.
If Earth, however, were a little closer to the sun, our planet might be like hot choking Venus.
A little farther away, the Earth might be like cold arid Mars.
Space news: The host star is approximately 10 percent the mass of our Sun (Image: getty)
Somehow, though, we ended up in just the right place with just the right ingredients for life to flourish.
Researchers of the 1970’s scratched their heads and said we were in “the Goldilocks Zone.”
The Goldilocks Zone seemed a remarkably small region of space which did not even include the whole Earth.
All life known in those days was confined to certain limits: no colder than Antarctica, no hotter than scalding water, no higher than the clouds, no lower than a few mines.
In the past 40 years, our knowledge of life in extreme environments has exploded.
Scientists found microbes in nuclear reactors, microbes that love acid, and microbes that swim in boiling-hot water.
Whole ecosystems have been discovered around deep sea vents where sunlight never reaches and the emerging vent-water is hot enough to melt lead.