Research Article

A terrestrial planet in a ~1-AU orbit around one member of a ∼15-AU binary

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Science  04 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6192, pp. 46-49
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251527

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Impolite planet ignores host's partner

Many known exoplanets (planets outside our own solar system) are hosted by binary systems that contain two stars. These planets normally circle around both of their stars. Using microlensing data taken with a worldwide network of telescopes, Gould et al. found a planet twice the mass of Earth that circles just one of a pair of stars. The same approach has the potential to uncover other similar star systems and help to illuminate some of the mysteries of planet formation.

Science, this issue p. 46


Using gravitational microlensing, we detected a cold terrestrial planet orbiting one member of a binary star system. The planet has low mass (twice Earth’s) and lies projected at ~0.8 astronomical units (AU) from its host star, about the distance between Earth and the Sun. However, the planet’s temperature is much lower, <60 Kelvin, because the host star is only 0.10 to 0.15 solar masses and therefore more than 400 times less luminous than the Sun. The host itself orbits a slightly more massive companion with projected separation of 10 to 15 AU. This detection is consistent with such systems being very common. Straightforward modification of current microlensing search strategies could increase sensitivity to planets in binary systems. With more detections, such binary-star planetary systems could constrain models of planet formation and evolution.

  • OGLE Team (Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment)

  • μFUN Team (Microlensing Follow Up Network)

  • § MOA Team (Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics)

  • ||Wise Team (Wise Observatory)

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