Scientists have discovered two new planets in the Milky Way galaxy. The exoplanets, identified as giant planets, are the size of Jupiter, and have been named Gaia-1b and Gaia-2b.
The discovery of the exoplanets was made as part of a study led by researchers at Tel Aviv University, in collaboration with teams from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the agency’s Gaia spacecraft.
The discovery marks the first time that the Gaia spacecraft successfully detected new planets. Gaia is a global space astrometry (science dealing with the positions and motions of celestial objects) mission building the most precise three-dimensional map of the Milky Way galaxy by surveying more than a thousand million stars.
The study describing the findings was recently published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
The Two New Planets Are “Hot Jupiters”
In a statement released by Tel Aviv University, Professor Shay Zucker, one of the authors on the paper, said the discovery of the two new planets was made in the wake of precise searches, using methods of artificial intelligence. Due to their size and proximity to their host star, the two new planets are referred to as “Hot Jupiters”. Zucker further said that the measurements the team made with the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona, one of the largest telescopes in the world, confirmed that the two new planets were giant planets, and similar in size to the gas giant Jupiter. The exoplanets are located so close to their Suns that they complete an orbit in less than four days. This means that each Earth year is comparable to 90 years on that exoplanet, Zucker said.
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The Solar System has eight planets. There are hundreds of thousands of planets in the Milky Way, but not much is known about them. In 1985, planets in remote solar systems were discovered for the first time. Astronomers are keen to discover more remote solar systems because this will help them understand our own solar system better.
How Does Gaia Spot Remote Solar Systems?
The ESA’s Gaia spacecraft helps fulfil this mission by rotating about its axis and tracking the locations of about two billion stars, the centres of different solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy with a precision of up to a millionth of a degree.
Gaia not only tracks the locations of the stars, but also measures their brightness. This is an important step because it provides information about the physical characteristics of celestial bodies around the stars.
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The researchers were able to discover the two new exoplanets as a result of the changes documented in the brightness of two remote stars.
Aviad Panahi, one of the researchers involved in the study, said the planets were discovered thanks to the fact they partially hide their Suns every time they complete an orbit. This causes a cyclical drop in the intensity of the light reaching Earth from the distant Sun.
The scientists performed tracking measurements with the Large Binocular Telescope to confirm that the celestial bodies were planets. The Large Binocular Telescope can track small fluctuations in a star’s movement caused by the presence of an orbiting planet.
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Are There Signs Of Life On The Planets?
Panahi explained that the new planets are very close to their Suns, because of which the temperatures there are extremely high. The temperatures are about 1,000 degrees Celsius, which makes the sustenance of life impossible on those planets.