Hint of planet-sized drifters bewilders Hubble scientists

June 28, 2001

Piercing the heart of a globular star cluster, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered tantalizing clues to what could be a strange and unexpected population of wandering, planet-sized objects.

The orbiting observatory detected these bodies in the globular cluster M22 by the way their gravity bends the light from background stars, a phenomenon called microlensing. These microlensing events were unusually brief, indicating that the mass of the intervening objects could be as little as 80 times that of Earth. Bodies this small have never been detected by microlensing observations.
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EDITORS NOTE: For additional information, please contact Dr. Kailash Sahu, Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, 410-338-4930 (phone), ksahu@stsci.edu (e-mail).

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The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA), 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 (ESA).

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CONTACT: Ray Villard, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, Phone: 410-338-4514; E-mail: villard@stsci.edu. Kailash Sahu Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD Phone: 410-338-4930; E-mail: ksahu@stsci.edu. Nino Panagia, European Space Agency/Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD Phone: 410-338-4916; E-mail: panagia@stsci.edu. Lars Lindberg Christensen Hubble European Space Agency Information Center, Garching, Germany Phone: 49-0-89-3200-6306; Cellular-24 hr: 49-0-173-38-72-621; E-mail: lars@eso.org.

PRESS RELEASE NO.: STScI-PR01-20
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Space Telescope Science Institute

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