A First: Planet Found With Gravitational Microlensing

The first discovery of a planet around another star using gravitational microlensing was announced yesterday by two research teams: Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) and Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE).


(From Planetary Microlensing OGLE
At left, unmagnified; at right, magnified by a factor of about 7)

The newly discovered planet is 17,000 light years away, in the Sagittarius. The planet, which orbits a red dwarf, is probably one-and-a half times bigger than Jupiter. Dr. Bohdan Paczynski of Princeton University first proposed using gravitational microlensing to detect dark matter in 1986. In 1991, Paczynski and his student, Shude Mao, proposed using microlensing to detect extrasolar planets. Earlier claims have been made, but they had too few observations of apparent planetary brightness variations.

SF readers may recall the artificial gravity lens used in Larry Niven's 1973 novel Protector; this one you could focus however you wanted. For more information, see the technical paper at Planetary Microlensing OGLE. See also the original article Cosmic magnifying glass. Read more at the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment homepage.

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