Planets detected outside Milky Way for 1st time

Planets beyond Milky Way discovered

Now, for the first time, a population of planets beyond the Milky Way galaxy has been discovered by a team of astrophysicists from the University of Oklahoma.

Researchers at University of Oklahoma in the U.S. used microlensing to detect the objects in extragalactic galaxies that range from the mass of the Moon to the mass of Jupiter.

They found planets as small as the moon and as large as Jupiter sitting outside of our galaxy.

Experts say it is still impossible to directly see the newly discovered celestial bodies with even the strongest telescope.

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Now, an important milestone has been made: for the very first time, scientists have been able to positively identify exoplanets that exist beyond the reach of our own Milky Way galaxy. "We analyzed the high frequency of these signatures by modeling the data to then determine the mass of these planets".

"We show that quasar microlensing provides a means to probe extragalactic planets in the lens galaxy, by studying the microlensing properties of emission close to the event horizon of the supermassive black hole of the background quasar, using the current generation telescopes", the researchers write.

Oklahoma University astronomers Xinyu Dai and Eduardo Guerras studied a quasar 6 billion light-years away called RX J1131-1231, one of the best gravitationally lensed quasars in the sky. What's that? Well, according to Einstein's theory of General Relativity, really massive things, like galaxies, stars, and even planets warp the shape of space itself.

The paper also explains that the researchers focussed on unbounded planets - that is, planets wandering around their galaxies rather than being part of a solar system - because planets orbiting stars don't show up separately from their hosts.

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"This is an example of how powerful the techniques of analysis of extragalactic microlensing can be".

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

HIP 13044 b, dubbed by a planet in 2010 was detected around 2,000 light years away from the Earth. "This is very cool science", Guerras added. "However, we are able to study them, unveil their presence and even have an idea of their masses". There may be trillions of planets in the center elliptical galaxy.

"We won't have a chance to observe the exomoon candidate again", stated lead author David Bennett of the University of Notre Dame, in a 2014 statement.

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