Astronomers detect first planets found outside of Milky Way

A group of astronomers have detected planets beyond the Milky Way for the first time in history.
By Joseph Scalise | Feb 07, 2018
For the first time in history, astronomers have discovered a series of planets outside the Milky Way, a new study in the The Astrophysical Journalreports.

Until now, the only planets on record were ones that sat within our galaxy. Though there are more than 3,500 exoplanets -- planets that orbit a star outside of our solar system -- on record, all of those still are within the confines of the Milky Way.

In the new research, a group of researchers from the University of Oklahoma used a technique known as microlensing -- where scientists study the way large objects bend and magnify light -- to detect a group of planets some 3.8 billion light years away. Not only did that process give them insight into the distant cosmos, but it also allowed them to model and explain the light signature that came from the celestial bodies.

"This is an example of how powerful the techniques of analysis of extragalactic microlensing can be," said study co-author Eduardo Guerras, a researcher at the University of Oklahoma, according to Newsweek. "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."

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory gathered raw data from the planets, and the team then used the University of Oklahoma's Supercomputer Center for Education and Research to analyze it. That process revealed that there are planets outside of our galaxy both as large as Jupiter and as small as the moon.

This discovery opens up new possibilities for space research and shows how much more there is to explore. There are many more worlds to find, and the team hopes microlensing will show what other bodies are hiding out in the distant researchers of the universe.

"We are very excited about this discovery," said lead author Xinya Dai, a researcher at the University of Oklahoma, in a statement. "This is the first time anyone has discovered planets outside our galaxy."

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