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Distance of a Microlensing Event Measured For the First Time 47

astroengine writes For the first time, astronomers have combined the observational power of a ground-based survey with a space telescope to measure the distance to a stellar-mass object that was detected through a chance microlensing event. In a new paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, astronomer Jennifer Yee of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), Mass., led the study focusing on the detection of the microlensing event called "OGLE-2014-BLG-0939." Detected by the 1.3 meter Warsaw Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and alerted through the Optical Gravitational Lens Experiment (OGLE) community on May 28, 2014, Yee's team seized the opportunity to use NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to focus on the transient brightening. Both telescopes recorded a light curve of the event and was therefore able to derive the distance to the dark lens.
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Distance of a Microlensing Event Measured For the First Time

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  • My thoughts (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We may never fully understand the nature of our universe, and almost certainly will never understand it in our lifetimes. But the question raised in the topic is actually a fundamental one that spans far beyond dark matter to all forms of theoritical science. Many theories are based heavily upon other theories. The "root" theories (with any luck) will eventually be proven or disproven, affecting all research and theories which follow that "root".

    For instance, if I find a pinecone lying on the ground under a

    • Re:My thoughts (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2015 @02:39PM (#49424203) Journal

      then punished those beings that failed to believe in it, said deity would be sick and twisted, not deserving of worship but in need of intense psychotherapy.

      Look at it from this perspective: Humans may someday be able to control or make sub-universes and/or simulations of universes. We'd then become deities from the perspective of any beings in such worlds. Thus, the idea of a deity is not so far fetched. It's within the realm of scientific speculation.

      Further, some of the humans who end up making or are put in charge of some of those worlds may turn out to be sadistic jerks. Thus, the situation you described is not entirely unrealistic. Acting "deities" could exist and could end up being jerks.

      That being said, I don't trust the humans of our Earth to get the traits of any such deity right, IF we are under such an overlord. They'd likely make up crap about the deity if they had contact with him/her/it. Or, it would be indistinguishable from tales of fake encounters.

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      What's the simplest explanation? There's a supreme deity with magical powers and mental health issues? Or that humans evolved as social creatures and their brains need metaphors for their community and their environment, and invent those metaphors as needed?

  • 20 years late (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Tuesday April 07, 2015 @02:44PM (#49424233)

    This is known as microlensing parallax, and was first done 1995 [arxiv.org]. Parallax breaks lensing degeneracies, enabling the determination of distance,

    Now, you may quibble about this particular distance measurement, but it's been done for 20 years now. Routinely. And, yes, its been done from space [harvard.edu] before too.

    My guess is that some needed qualifiers were lost between the astronomer's mouth and the headline writers keyboard, but it ain't first.

    • Re:20 years late (Score:5, Informative)

      by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian.bixby@gma i l . c om> on Tuesday April 07, 2015 @03:16PM (#49424439)

      I broke the rules and RTFA, this is the first time that they have managed to combine an Earth-based observation and a space-based one separated by far enough from each other to give a reasonably accurate baseline for an accurate measurement of both distance and mass. From the article:

      Calculations estimated it to be 10,200 (+/- 1,300) light-years away. . . These observations also allowed the mass of the object to be measured — around 0.23 solar masses

      • by mbone ( 558574 )

        I broke the rules and RTFA, this is the first time that they have managed to combine an Earth-based observation and a space-based one separated by far enough from each other to give a reasonably accurate baseline for an accurate measurement of both distance and mass. From the article:

        Calculations estimated it to be 10,200 (+/- 1,300) light-years away. . . These observations also allowed the mass of the object to be measured — around 0.23 solar masses

        Not quite. If you read further, you see that the key word is that it is first for a "isolated" (i.e., single) star. Dong et al. [arxiv.org] did this in 2007, but for a binary star.

        I must sat that I dislike "firstitis," both in science and on Slashdot. However, these are not easy measurements and this is still quite an accomplishment.

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