Astronomers have discovered four new Earth-sized exoplanets floating near the galactic bulge of the Milky Way, but unlike Earth, these planets don’t belong to any solar system. They called her the “floating swindler.”
According to a scientific paper published by Popular Science, astronomers have re-used ancient technology to find these planetary needles in a galactic haystack.
According to the study team, the scientists made these four new discoveries thanks to data from the Kepler mission, in which a space telescope scans the bulge of the galaxy and collects the signals of the minute lens, a phenomenon that can be used to discover objects, including planets, even when they emit very little light. After analyzing the Kepler data, the researchers found that four of those recorded signals matched those of planets similar in size to Earth. Signal patterns indicate that none of these newly discovered planets are accompanied by any stars, making them free-floating or evil planets. Free floats likely started out as regular planets around a star, but become anomalous when their orbits are disrupted by the gravitational pull of other nearby celestial bodies.
What distinguishes these new findings, according to the study’s authors, is the ability of scientists to use old technology in new and innovative ways. Kepler wasn’t actually designed to detect minute lensing events, nor was it intended to stare into the dense center of our galaxy. Scientists had to do a tremendous amount of sorting and refining the data to draw their conclusions. “It’s very difficult to find these signals,” says Ian MacDonald, the study’s lead author. But our observations indicated that there are actually thousands of bright stars of varying brightness, and thousands of asteroids slithering through our field.
When searching for planets, especially those unaccompanied by starlights, it can be very difficult to filter out all the other noise and find those celestial bodies in the dark. MacDonald added: “From this cacophony, we are trying to extract a small and distinct brightness caused by the planets, and we only have one chance to see a signal before it goes away. It’s as easy as looking for a flash in the middle of the highway using just a mobile phone.” The authors of the new paper point out that there are likely to be more Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way, and upcoming new space missions with updated technology are likely to reveal some of them.
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