Spitzer Spies Faraway Exoplanet

posted: 04/15/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Map of Exoplanets Found in Our Galaxy (Artist's Concept)

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has identified one of the most distant gas planets known to man. An impressive 13,000 light-years away from Earth, the new exoplanet raises questions about the distribution of planets within the galaxy.

"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," noted NASA Sagan fellow Jennifer Yee.

Working in conjunction with the Polish Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE), Spitzer astronomers used microlensing to pinpoint the exoplanet. According to NASA, "A microlensing event occurs when one star happens to pass in front of another, and its gravity acts as a lens to magnify and brighten the more distant star's light".

Microlensing is giving astronomers an unprecedented look at the center of the galaxy, where star crossings occur more frequently. Both Spitzer and OGLE observed the same microlensing event, which helped astronomers determine the new exoplanet's location with remarkable accuracy.

Click here for more information from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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