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A Magnifying Glass for the Milky Way

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Science  07 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5450, pp. 67-68
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5450.67

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Summary

By watching for rare flickers caused by planets or brown dwarfs floating across our line of sight to a background star--a phenomenon called microlensing--astronomers hoped to glean clues to the nature of the dark matter, invisible to telescopes, whose gravity keeps our own Milky Way from flying apart as it spins. Instead, they have gained a richer knowledge of other beasts in our galactic menagerie, including possible discoveries of extrasolar planets and insights into curious variable stars. Observations of the rare lensing events have also forced astronomers to ponder a new structure for our galaxy: that rather than being a perfect pinwheel, it seems to have a bar-shaped clot of stars at its center.

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