Beyond the Milky Way: Planetary Discovery Wows Scientists
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.
The team was able to reveal these planets -- located billions of light-years away from Earth -- thanks to a technique called gravitational microlensing. The method works because as planets orbit a star, the gravitational field of that particular system bends the light emitted from the star, and scientists know what it looks like when a planet comes in the middle of this light disturbance, the study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, explained. This technique, which uses high-powered microlensing, has been responsible for the detection of 53 planets in the Milky Way but this is the first time it's been able to locate planets outside of it.
"We are very excited about this discovery. This is the first time anyone has discovered planets outside our galaxy," co-author of the paper, astronomer Xinyu Dai, told the UO news.
The planets are too far away for anyone alive to view them firsthand, the paper said, but the ability to detect them with modern technologies is promising for future study and exploration.
"This is an example of how powerful the techniques of analysis of extragalactic microlensing can be," another co-author and astronomer, Eduardo Guerras, said. "This galaxy is located 3.8 billion light years away, and there is not the slightest chance of observing these planets directly, not even with the best telescope one can imagine in a science fiction scenario. However, we are able to study them, unveil their presence and even have an idea of their masses. This is very cool science."
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