For the first time, astronomers have discovered a sun-like star playing host to a "habitable zone" exoplanet located inside the Milky Way's galactic bulge - some 25,000 light-years distant - using a quirk of Einstein's general relativity.
But don't go having dreams of exotic getaways to the glistening lights of the center of our galaxy, this exoplanet is a huge gas giant world, about five times the mass of Jupiter. However, there is something (potentially) very exciting about this new discovery. Like Jupiter, this newly discovered giant exoplanet may possess small satellites; exomoons that could have life-giving potential.
ANALYSIS: Giant Planet Seen Lurking Inside the Galactic Bulge
This massive world was detected through "microlensing." Microlensing events occur when a star passes in front of another, more distant, star. As the nearer star passes in front, its gravitational field - which is (according to general relativity) bending the surrounding spacetime - deflects the light from the more distant star. Like the lens in a magnifying glass, the starlight is magnified and Earth-bound observatories are able to spot a transient brightening. Information about the "lens" (the foreground star) and any planets in tow can then be deduced in the brightening's "lightcurve."