Here’s looking at you – OGLE-2013-BLG-0341LBb
It’s the newly discovered earthlike planet with a rather convoluted name.
OGLE-2013-BLG-0341LBb was found by a team of international astronomers, including several New Zealanders.
Astronomer Dr Grant Christie, an Onehunga resident who works at Stardome Observatory in One Tree Hill, helped spot the new planet in the Sagittarius constellation 3000 light years away.
The study provides the first evidence that terrestrial planets can form in orbits similar to Earth’s, in binary star systems.
Though it’s too cold to be habitable by humans, there could be life under the surface, Christie says.
‘‘The majority of stars in our galaxy are binary stars so it wasn’t a great surprise.
‘‘But what was particularly important, around one of these stars we found an earth-like planet orbiting it.
‘‘It’s possible that there’s some sort of life form on a planet like that.’’
Four research teams, led by professor Andrew Gould of The Ohio State University, published their discovery in the July 4 issue of international journal Science.
Christie was one of four astronomers from MicroFUN who contributed observations over four nights in April last year.
The others were Jennie McCormick from Farm Cove, John Drummond from Gisborne and Ian Porritt from Palmerston North.‘‘Until this planet was found it’s been controversial as to whether earth-like planets with an earth-like orbit could exist in a binary star system of this type,’’ Christie says.
‘‘There could be a lot of earthlike planets out there. ‘‘There could be billions of them. ‘‘It greatly increases the number of places we can look for earthlike planets.’’
Christie says life forms that could exist on OGLE could be similar to those that live around Earth’s underwater volcanoes, that pump mineral-rich fluids into the sea.
They are home to unique and bizarre forms of life like giant tubeworms, shrimp, limpets and clams.
‘‘They get all their energy from chemicals billowing out of this vent,’’ Christie says.
Christie has been involved in astronomy at the Stardome Observatory since 1967.
OGLE, which is twice the mass of earth, could be in for a name change after the International Astronomical Union recently decided to rename a bunch of similar extra-solar planets, Christie says.
Several of those have been found with help from Stardome Observatory — and OGLE could be next on the list if the first batch proves successful.
‘‘The committee of the IAU will look at names that resonate with people and have some meaning.
‘‘Once the list is done they will create a website. Anyone in the world can vote.’’
Star struck: Astronomer Dr Grant Christie was one of four New Zealanders who helped discover a new planet.