Artist's View of Planet Orbiting Twin Stars
This artist's illustration shows a gas giant planet circling a pair of red dwarf stars.
The Saturn-mass planet orbits roughly 300 million miles from the stellar duo. The two red dwarf stars are a mere 7 million miles apart.
The illustration is based on Hubble Space Telescope observations that helped astronomers confirm the existence of a planet orbiting two stars in the system OGLE-2007-BLG-349, located 8,000 light-years away.
The system is too far away for Hubble to photograph the planet. Instead, its presence is inferred from gravitational microlensing. This phenomenon occurs when the gravity of a foreground star bends and amplifies the light of a background star that momentarily aligns with it. The particular character of the light magnification can reveal clues to the nature of the foreground star and any associated planets. The Hubble observations represent the first time such a three-body system has been confirmed using the gravitational microlensing technique.