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'Iceball' Planet discovered through Microlensing

NASA scientists have discovered a new planet- OGLE-2016-BLG-1195lb- that has the same mass as Earth and orbits its star from the same distance as Earth orbits the sun.
The findings were reported in a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The discovery adds to the scientist’s understanding of the types of planetary systems existing beyond Earth.

Key Highlights
• The newly discovered planet is nearly 13,000 light-years away and orbits a small star.
• According to scientists the planet is likely to be too cold to sustain life, as its star is so faint.
• The planet, referred to as ‘iceball’ due to its probable cold state, is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing.
• It would help scientists figure out the distribution of planets in Milky Way.
• The planet is located in the disk of our galaxy, on its fringe like two planets detected previously through microlensing by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
• This discovery was made through the Korea Microlensing Telescope Network (KMTNet), which is operated by both the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute and Spitzer.
• The KMTNet consists of three wide-field telescopes, one in Chile, one in Australia and one in South Africa.\
What is Microlensing?
• It is a technique that aids the discovery of distant objects by using background stars as flashlights.
• When a star crosses from the front of a bright star, the gravity of the star in the front focuses the light of the background star, making it appear brighter.
• So, a planet orbiting the foreground star may cause a glitch in its brightness.
• The technique has helped in the discovery of the most distant known exoplanets from Earth.
• It can also help detect low-mass planets that are considerably farther from their stars than Earth is from the sun.
• In the case of this discovery, the blip lasted only for a few hours.

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