In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, NASA’s Spitzer and Swift space telescopes joined forces to observe a microlensing event, when a distant star brightens due to the gravitational field of at least one foreground cosmic object. This technique is useful for finding low-mass bodies orbiting stars, such as planets. In this case, the observations revealed a brown dwarf.
In a global exoplanet observation experiment, NASA’s Kepler K2 mission and Earth-based observatories on six continents hope to survey millions of stars toward the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. Using a technique called gravitational microlensing, scientists will hunt for exoplanets that orbit far from their host star and for free-floating exoplanets that wander between the stars.
Astronomers have developed a new, highly accurate method of measuring the distances between stars using a technique which searches out stellar ‘twins’. The method could be a valuable complement to the Gaia satellite which is creating a 3-D map of the sky over five years, measuring the size of the Milky Way and enabling a greater understanding of how it evolved.