Researchers discover planets beyond our galaxy for first time

06 February, 2018, 14:33 | Author: Becky Perry
  • Researchers discover planets beyond our galaxy for first time

Astrophysicists have detected multiple planets outside of our own galaxy that range in size from some that are similar to our Moon and others as massive as Jupiter, according to researchers at the University of Oklahoma. "These small planets are the best candidate for the signature we observed in this study using the microlensing technique", study researcher Xinyu Dai, from the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Oklahoma declared. For that, they used the data collected by NASA's space-based Chandra X-ray laboratory. "Here, we show that quasar microlensing provides a means to probe extragalactic planets in the lens galaxy", scientists wrote in a February 2 release in The Astrophysical Journal. The new study has been published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. But so far all of those planets have been in our general celestial neighborhood, within our galaxy, the Milky Way.

Microlensing is an astronomical phenomenon that uses the light bent by gravity itself to detect planets.

Until now, scientists haven't detected any planets outside of our own Milky Way Galaxy - it's simply been too hard to discern such small things from so far away. Astronomers said the system, called MOA-2011-BLG-262, is either a planet and a moon, or a star and a planet. This galaxy is located 3.8 billion light years away, and there is not the slightest chance of observing these planets directly. The gravitational force of the galaxy bends the light heading toward the Milky Way, illuminating the galaxy in an effect called microlensing.

Dai estimated the distant galaxies contains 2,000 planets for every star. "We analyzed the high frequency of the signature by modeling the data to determine the mass".

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Unusual lines of energy shift in quasar's light were found by the researchers, which could only be explained by the planets in the galaxy lensing the quasar. To date, more than 50 planets have been found using this method.

Scientists have previously spotted this kind of microlensing event using the Andromeda galaxy as the magnifying glass, which some have proposed could be evidence for planets. But being able to detect them reflects the incredible power of the microlens, not to mention the evidence - even if we knew it - that there are indeed planets in other galaxies.

The astronomer added that while humans can't actually see planets in another galaxy, revealing their existence was "very cool science".

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