In what seems to be like an event from the “Star Wars” series, a recently announced “one-in-a-million” venture has enabled scientists to catch a rare glimpse of a planet that sits closer to the centre of our galaxy — the Milky Way, a study published in the Astronomical Journal suggests.
The location and size range of the planet detected through a rare event when gravity briefly magnified the light coming off the planet suggest that it could be capable of sustaining life, just like Earth, it has been concluded.
"The combined gravity of the planet and its host star caused the light from a more distant background star to be magnified in a particular way. We used telescopes distributed around the world to measure the light-bending effect”, said lead researcher Antonio Herrera Martin, of the University of Canterbury, in a statement accompanying the study.
A whole slew of questions arises, like if the planet’s host star - a red dwarf that would typically send dangerous X-rays into space - is stable enough to sustain life, and if the planet itself, given its size and orbit, would be compatible with any biological species.
The planet has been found to be somewhere between the size of Earth and Neptune, with chances of it being nothing more than a gas giant. At the same time, the planet technically dubbed OGLE-2018-BLG-0677Lb after it lingered for some time in front of telescope lenses, could have a really tricky orbit - something between Earth and Venus, which means that it could be close enough to receive warmth from a red dwarf, but not a sufficient distance away to avoid deadly radiation.
The planet is among a range of other objects due to be studied in depth, as the near future prepares to see the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (2021) as well as the construction of the promising planet-hunting European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).