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Discovery alert! Colossal planet spotted

Planet: MOA-2012-BLG-0006L b

Discovered by: R. Poleski and the OGLE microlensing collaboration

Date: September 15, 2017

Key Facts: This new discovery is so massive, astronomers can't say for certain whether it's a planet or a small failed star. The probable gas giant is a world of extremes: over eight times more massive than Jupiter, it also takes about 32 years to complete one orbit around its red star.

Our take: Microlensing helps us find planets toward the bright center of the Milky Way that otherwise we couldn't see. In gravitational microlensing, light from a distant star is bent and focused by gravity as a planet passes between the star and Earth. The catch is that we only get to view a microlensing planet once, before it fades back into the black of space. We're not sure how a planet the size of this gas giant was formed, but further microlensing studies could help us find clues to the existence of other planets like it.