The best candidate for an Earth-like planet is also the farthest one detected yet — and it has a Guinness World Record to prove it


  • Astronomers from the University of Canterbury claim that they have found a new potentially habitable planet near the centre of the Milky Way.
  • The only problem is that it's nearly 24,722 light years away, making it the farthest Super Earth detected by planet hunters till date.
  • The discovery, OGLE-2018-BLG-0677Lb, has even been cited by the Guinness World Records as the 'most distant extrasolar planet'.
Astronomers are always on the hunt for another planet that’s just like Earth — and they may have found the best possible candidate yet but it’s a whopping 24,722.65 light-years away near the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy.

That’s a distance of more than 200,000 trillion kilometres. It’s the most distant Earth-like exoplanet in the Milky Way till date — and, it has an entry in the Guinness World Records to prove it.

Artist's rendering of a "Super Earth," a planet larger than Earth but smaller than NeptuneESO/M. Kornmesser

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The observation — cited as OGLE-2018-BLG-0677Lb — is so close to the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy and it could be within the ‘galactic bulge’, a densely populated region of stars found at the heart of most spiral galaxies, according to the study published in The Astronomical Journal.

There’s only a handful of planets that fit the profile of being a potential second-home for humans. Most of them are within a few light-years of Earth unlike BLG-0677Lb.

Everything we know about this new Earth-like planet
The exoplanet is around 3.96 times the mass of Earth, and it moves much slower than our own home planet. It takes nearly twice the time to circle its Sun, resulting in one year lasting around 617 days.

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The star around which the super-Earth orbits is much smaller than our Sun — it only has around 0.12 times its mass. The question for whether it’s actually habitable still remains ambiguous due to its distance from Earth. The instruments that astronomers currently use aren’t sensitive to make observations of something so far away.

The weird story of how astronomers discovered this far-way Earth
The discovery of this new Earth-like planet was made by University of Canterbury ( UC) astronomers Herrera Martin and Michael Albrow. The planet’s star was only their radar for around five days, and the planet itself was detected during a small five-hour window.

“After confirming this was indeed caused by another ‘body’ different from the star, and not an instrumental error, we proceeded to obtain the characteristics of the star-planet system,” Martin said in a statement.

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Albrow explains that after Marin first noticed the unusual shape in the light output, it took months of computation analysis to figure out that the distortion was caused due to a star with a low-mass planet, like Earth.

The planet was discovered using a technique called gravitational microlensing, a rare phenomenon in itself. Most of the other exoplanets discovered till date have either used the transit method — which uses minor dips in starlight to find planets — or the wobble method, which detects gravitational influence.

Microlensing is a kind of observation that doesn't repeat itself and the probability of detecting a planet is severely low. “The combined gravity of the planet and its host star caused the light from a more distant background star to be magnified in a particular way. We used telescopes distributed around the world to measure the light-bending effect,” Martin explained.

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Even though it’s bigger than our own Earth, it’s still one of the lowest-mass planets to ever be discovered using gravitational microlensing.

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