NASA discovers ‘iceball’ planet that has the same mass and orbit as Earth

Roshan Jha
The newly-discovered planet is also named as ‘iceball’ planet and it similar as Earth.

Washington, April 27: Scientists of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Thursday discovered a new planet with the mass of Earth, orbiting its star at the same distance that we orbit our sun. The researchers named the planet as  Earth’s icy-twin. “This ‘iceball’ planet is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing,” said Yossi Shvartzvald, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The newly discovered Earth-like planet is called OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb. It aids scientists in their quest to figure out the distribution of planets in our galaxy. The OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is located in the disk, as are two planets previously detected through microlensing by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The distance between the newly discovered planet and its star is equal to the distance between Earth and sun. Although OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is about the same mass as Earth, and the same distance from its host star as our planet is from our sun, the similarities may end there, the NASA release stated.

About the new planet OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb:

  • OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is nearly 13,000 light-years away and orbits a star so small, scientists aren’t sure if it’s a star at all.
  • The OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is located in the disk, as are two planets previously detected through microlensing by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
  • It could be a brown dwarf, a star-like object whose core is not hot enough to generate energy through nuclear fusion.
  • This particular star is only 7.8 percent the mass of our sun, right on the border between being a star and not.

Geoff Bryden, astronomer at JPL and co-author of the study was quoted in the NASA release saying, “Although we only have a handful of planetary systems with well-determined distances that are this far outside our solar system, the lack of Spitzer detections in the bulge suggests that planets may be less common toward the center of our galaxy than in the disk”. The newly-discovered planet is likely to be a very small even it is claimed that it is just a 7.8 percent the mass of our sun. The astronomers have claimed that it is very small and the chances of finding life on the planet are low as it is even colder than Pluto.

Reports by NASA reveal that the researchers were alerted to the initial microlensing event by the ground-based Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) survey, managed by the University of Warsaw in Poland. Study authors used the Korea Microlensing Telescope Network (KMTNet), operated by the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, and Spitzer, to track the event from Earth and space.