Published: Wed, February 07, 2018
Sci-tech | By Eric Barnett

For The First Time Ever, Astronomers Have Detected Planets Outside Our Galaxy

For The First Time Ever, Astronomers Have Detected Planets Outside Our Galaxy

Their findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Scientists at the University of Oklahoma have utilised information from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and microlensing, a planet detection technique.

"The gravitational field of a galaxy 3.8 billion light-years away between us and the quasar bends light in such a way that it creates four images of the quasar, which is an active supermassive black hole that's extremely bright in X-ray, thanks to the intense heat of its accretion disc", a report in the Science Alert said.

Xinyu Dai, an astrophysicist and professor at the University of Oklahoma, who led the study, said that Microlensing is probably the only way to identify planets beyond our Solar system. For the first time ever, astrophysicists have found a population of planets beyond the edge of our galaxy.

For the purposes of their study, the researchers relied on the gravitational microlens technique, which relies on the gravitational force of distant objects to focus light from a star. "We analyzed the high frequency of these signatures by modeling the data to then determine the mass of these planets".

Researchers Discover Ancient Mayan City Hidden Under Guatemala Jungle
The researchers chose to map an area of 772 square miles in northern Peten jungle, which is close to Mexico. The flow of water was meticulously planned and controlled via canals, dikes, and reservoirs.

And while this technique has been used to find planets within our Milky Way, until this study there has been no evidence for the existence of planets in other galaxies. These newly-discovered extragalactic planets, however, sit some 3.8 billion years away.

The Milky Way, the galaxy containing our solar system, has hundreds of billions of stars, according to NASA. In order to discover planets in a galaxy which is further away, scientists would have to use something stronger than the light of a single star. Unlike Earth, most of the exoplanets are not tightly bound to stars, so they're actually wandering through space or loosely orbiting between stars. But a new study provides evidence that there could possibly be extragalactic exoplanets beyond the confines of the Milky Way.

This solid confirmation of planets beyond our galaxy is an incredible feat, and it opens up a world of possibilities in research.

"This is an example of how powerful the techniques of analysis of extragalactic microlensing can be", said postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Guerras. But they were still able to use their calculations to estimate the number of planets and masses. Earlier in the year, the Kepler ID'd 219 new planet candidates. "If you have only one planet, the chances of observing it twice is astronomically small".

Like this: