For the vast majority of exoplanetary discoveries, one or more planets are found orbiting one star. However, there are a few exotic exoplanets orbiting two stars and the Hubble Space Telescope has helped confirm the discovery of a unique star system.
Way back in 2007, a ground-based system looking for transient brightenings -- called "microlensing" events -- detected a peculiar signal.
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Microlensing events are caused when a massive object, like a planet or star, passes in front of a more distant background star. As predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity, the lensing object will warp spacetime, causing any light passing by to slightly change its path. Should the alignment between distant star, lensing object and Earth be just right, the object can create a spacetime lens -- akin to passing a magnifying lens in front of a candle flame.
The result is a short-lived brightening of the background star. By studying the microlensing event light-curve (i.e. how the brightening fluctuates with time), we can learn many things about the object(s) creating the lens.
But in the case of the 2007 event, the ground-based Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (or "OGLE") detected something else in the light-curve that confused matters. This wasn't a single object, it was a whole star system -- with a twist.
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"A detailed analysis revealed a third lensing body in addition to the star and planet that were quite obvious from the data," said astronomer David Bennett, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement.
But what does this mean? Through analysis of the signal, called OGLE-2007-BLG-349, there were two explanations. According to Bennett, there was either "a Saturn-mass planet orbiting a close binary star pair or a Saturn-mass and an Earth-mass planet orbiting a single star."