For Release: 2:00 p.m. (EDT) June 27, 2001

Hint of Planet-Sized Drifters Bewilders Hubble Scientists

Piercing the heart of a globular star cluster, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope 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 the intervening objects could be as little as 80 times that of Earth. Bodies this small have never been detected by microlensing observations.

Credits for the Hubble image: NASA, Kailash Sahu, Stefano Casertano, Mario Livio, Ron Gilliland (Space Telescope Science Institute), Nino Panagia (European Space Agency/Space Telescope Science Institute), Michael Albrow and Mike Potter (Space Telescope Science Institute)

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



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