Identification of Exoplanet Host Star

Identification of Exoplanet Host Star

About this image

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Hubble Space telescope observed and identified the host star to a gravitationally lensed planet first discovered in 2003 by ground-based telescopes.

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A foreground red star and planet drifts toward the sky position of a much farther sunlike background star.

In 2003, the foreground star-planet system slightly amplifies the light of a background star that momentarily aligns with it. This is called a microlensing event.

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The light from each star is progressively more offset year after year as the foreground star drifts by.

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In 2005, Hubble Space Telescope observations distinguished the light from the two stars. This was possible because the foreground star turns out to be a different color from the background star. By observing the stars though a red and blue filter, astronomers were able to enhance the visibility of the offset. The relative offset is 0.7 milliarcseconds (the angular width of a dime seen 3,000 miles away) from the source star. (This is below Hubble's resolution, but still a measurable effect.) The deduced positions of the two stars in 2005 are shown with red and blue crosshatches.

Exoplanets, Gravitational Lensing, Hubble Telescope, Infographics, Planets, Stars


Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Feild (STScI), D. Bennett (University of Notre Dame), and J. Anderson (Rice University)