Earth-Like Planet Found
This is pretty cool:
An international team of astronomers reportedly has discovered the smallest, Earth-like planet outside our Solar System.
The planet, known as OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, orbits a star one-fifth the mass of the Sun, and has an estimated surface temperature of minus 364 Fahrenheit (minus 200 Celsius), astronomers Michael Albrow and Karen Pollard of Canterbury University told Television New Zealand. They said the discovery might one day lead to finding a twin Earth.
The planet is located about 20,000 light years from Earth; it orbits a star in the constellation Sagittarius. The astronomers who discovered it did so via a technique called gravitational microlensing, which enables distant objects to be detected through the light intensification caused by their gravity. This technique seems a little counter-intuitive. I would have though that a planet passing between us and a distant star would obscure the star somewhat and reduce the amount of light that reaches us. And in fact, maybe it does -- but apparently we'll never find any planets looking for that. Instead, we go looking for the tiny light spike that the planet's gravity causes, and voila! Now we're locating Earth-like planets.
I reiterate: pretty cool.