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Press Release 08-021

A Newly Discovered Solar System Contains Scaled-Down Versions of Saturn and Jupiter

Finding means solar systems like ours may be common throughout the galaxy

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Illustration of a solar system with scaled-down versions of Saturn and Jupiter.

Scientists have discovered a solar system analogous to ours containing scaled-down versions of Saturn and Jupiter. The two planets were revealed when the star they orbit crossed in front of a more distant star as seen from Earth. For a two-week period from late March through April 2006, the nearer star magnified the light shining from the farther star. Their finding suggests that our galaxy hosts many star systems like our own.

Credit: KASI - CBNU - ARCSEC (KASI is the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, CBNU is the Chungbuk National University, and ARCSEC is Astrophysical Research Center for the Structure and Evolution of the Cosmos.)


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At a telephone news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008, astronomers announced exciting new findings about the universe that were made with the microlensing technique.

The conference transcript is available.

Credit: National Science Foundation

 

Microlensing uses the gravity of near star and planets to magnify light from a background star.

Microlensing works by using the gravity of the near star (shown in the bottom left), and its orbiting planets as a lens, magnifying light from a background star. By studying how the complex patterns of magnified light change as the near star and the two planets of the planetary system move in front of the distant star (top right), we can determine the properties of the planets and their star.

Credit: KASI - CBNU - ARCSEC
(KASI is the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, CBNU is the Chungbuk National University, and ARCSEC is Astrophysical Research Center for the Structure and Evolution of the Cosmos.)


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David Bennett

Credit: National Science Foundation

 

Scott Gaudi

Credit: National Science Foundation

 

This animated clip shows how microlensing works by using the gravity of the near star (shown in the bottom left), and its orbiting planets as a lens, magnifying light from a background star. By studying how the complex patterns of magnified light change as the near star and the two planets of the planetary system move in front of the distant star (top right), we can determine the properties of the planets and their star.

Credit: KASI - CBNU - ARCSEC (KASI is the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, CBNU is the Chungbuk National University, and ARCSEC is Astrophysical Research Center for the Structure and Evolution of the Cosmos.)

 

This animation explains gravitational microlensing.

View Video
This animation explains gravitational microlensing.

Credit: Trent Schindler, National Science Foundation