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Fwd = Hints of Planet-Sized Objects Bewilder Hubble Scientists

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  • Frits Westra
    Forwarded by: fwestra@hetnet.nl (Frits Westra) Originally from: JPLNews@jpl.nasa.gov Original Subject: Hints of Planet-Sized Objects Bewilder Hubble
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 28, 2001
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      Forwarded by: fwestra@... (Frits Westra)
      Originally from: JPLNews@...
      Original Subject: Hints of Planet-Sized Objects Bewilder Hubble Scientists
      Original Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 17:08:35 -0700 (PDT)

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      MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
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      Contacts: JPL/Jane Platt (818) 354-0880
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      Lindberg Christensen (49-89-3200-6306)

      IMAGE ADVISORY June 27, 2001

      HINTS OF PLANET-SIZED OBJECTS BEWILDER HUBBLE SCIENTISTS

      Scientists are mystified by what may be unexpected,
      wandering, planet-sized objects.

      A new image taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope
      implies the presence of these objects. The image is available
      at http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/latest.html and
      http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/wfpc .

      If confirmed, the new information collected by Hubble's
      Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 could yield new insights
      about how stars and planets formed. The camera was designed
      and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,
      Calif.

      In results published this week in the journal Nature, the
      scientists report six unusual "microlensing" events inside the
      globular cluster M22. Microlensing occurs when a background
      star brightens momentarily as a foreground object drifts by.
      The gravitational field of the object amplifies light from a
      distant background star in the huge central bulge of our
      galaxy. The objects believed to cause these events are too
      dim to be seen directly.

      The unusually short period (less than 20 hours) over
      which these microlensing events occurred indicates that the
      mass of the intervening objects could be as little as 80 times
      that of Earth. If confirmed, these bodies would be the
      smallest celestial objects ever seen beyond our solar system
      that are not orbiting any star.

      Theoretically, these objects might be planets that were
      gravitationally torn away from parent stars in the cluster.
      However, they are estimated to make up as much as 10 percent
      of the cluster's mass -- too numerous to be wandering,
      "orphaned" planets.

      Because these findings are so surprising, the astronomers
      caution that they must be confirmed by follow-up Hubble
      observations.

      The new Hubble image includes an inset photo showing the
      entire globular cluster of about 10 million stars. Globular
      cluster M22 is about 60 light-years wide. A light year equals
      about 9.5 trillion kilometers (5.9 trillion miles). The image
      was taken in June 1995 by the Burrell Schmidt telescope at the
      Case Western Reserve University's Warner and Swasey
      Observatory on Kitt Peak in Arizona.

      Additional information about the Hubble Space Telescope
      is online at http://www.stsci.edu . More information about
      the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 is at
      http://wfpc2.jpl.nasa.gov .

      The Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.,
      manages space operations for the Hubble Space Telescope for
      NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The
      Institute is operated by the Association of Universities for
      Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under contract with the
      Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The Hubble Space
      Telescope is a project of international cooperation between
      NASA and the European Space Agency.

      JPL is a division of the California Institute of
      Technology.

      #####

      06/27/01 EP
      #2001-137

      Credits for Hubble/WFPC2 image: NASA/Space Telescope Science
      Institute/European Space Agency

      Credits for inset, ground-based image: Nigel A. Sharp/REU
      program/AURA/NOAO/NSF

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