According to NASA, our Milky Way contains at least 100 billion planets. According to other estimates, there could be 100 to 200 billion planets in the Milky Way.
Tel Aviv University researchers have discovered two new planets in some of the most distant solar systems in the Milky Way. Thanks to the Gaia space probe and teams from the European Space Agency (ESA), they discovered the giant planets called Gaia-1b and Gaia-2b.
Gaia’s first successful detection of a new planet marks a milestone for the spacecraft. Gaia is a stargazing satellite whose mission is to map the Milky Way in 3D, which is not the same as standing on Earth and identifying a coin on the Moon.
Professor Shay Zucker and PhD student Aviad Panahi from TAU led this initiative.
Professor Zucker said the discovery of the two new planets was made through precise research using AI methods. Gaia detected 40 other candidates. The astronomical community must examine their data to establish their planetary nature, as scientists did for the first two candidates.
Due to their size and proximity to their host star, the two new planets are known as “hot Jupiters.”
“Measurements we made with the American telescope confirmed that they were in fact two giant planets, similar in size to the planet Jupiter in our solar system, and located so close to their sun that they complete an orbit in less than four days, which means that each Earth year is comparable to 90 years of this planet,” Professor Zucker explained .
Tremendous progress is being made, with scientists identifying exoplanets at a rate never seen before.
According to NASA, our Milky Way contains at least 100 billion planets. According to other estimates, there could be 100 to 200 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy. In addition, the number of exoplanets discovered to date exceeds 5,000, and new planets are being discovered every day.
Researchers have been studying planets in distant solar systems since 1995 in hopes of learning more about the solar system we live in.
Gaia tracks the positions of nearly 2 billion suns, the stars at the center of a solar system, in our galaxy, tracking their positions with an accuracy of one millionth of a degree as it rotates around its axis.
An important feature of observational astronomy, Gaia can monitor the brightness of stars while tracking their position, providing valuable information about the physical characteristics of celestial bodies around them. For example, the brightness variations of two distant stars led to the discovery of the two gas giants.
Planets have been found to cause a cyclical dip in the intensity of light reaching us from distant suns because they partially obscure their sun each time they complete an orbit, Aviad Panahi explained.
A follow-up measurement was made using the Large Binocular Telescope , one of the largest telescopes in the world, to validate that the celestial bodies were indeed planets. An orbiting planet can cause small fluctuations in a star’s motion, which can be tracked using the telescope.
As well as being a significant scientific achievement, this discovery marks another milestone for the Gaia mission, which has already paved the way for a revolution in astronomy.
In the past, doubts have been raised about Gaia’s ability to discover planets by observing partial occultations, which require continuous monitoring over time.
In the cumulative databases of Gaia, the research team used an algorithm specially designed for the characteristics of Gaia.
Is it possible that life exists on these new distant planets?
As the newly discovered planets are very close to their sun, their temperatures are extremely high, around 1,000 degrees Celsius, which means that life – as we know it – cannot exist there.
“I am convinced that there are countless more that have life on them, and it is reasonable to think that in the next few years we will discover signs of organic molecules in the atmosphere of distant planets. It is very likely that we will not have the opportunity to visit these distant worlds anytime soon, but we are only just beginning the journey, and it is very exciting to participate in this research,” said Panahi.
The results were published in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics .