Planets beyond the Milky Way

2 weeks ago Shruti Goel 0

For the first time, researchers have discovered a bunch of planets outside the Milky Way galaxy. This new galaxy has been found to be located at a distance of 3.8 light years. This discovery has been done by using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory which is a telescope in space being controlled by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. They detected various objects in extragalactic galaxies using studies based on the technique of microlensing. These objects found beyond the Milky Way vary in sizes from the minimum size of a Moon to a maximum of that of Jupiter. The discovery has been made by professor Xinyu Dai and postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Guerras from the University of Oklahoma.

NASA Chandra X-ray observatory
NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory telescope by an artist


It is an only existing technique for the detection of planets and other objects in space located at a distance from the earth. It is better than radial velocity searches and is potentially more efficient because radial velocity is used for detecting planets only up to a range of 100 light years away from the earth. Microlensing is an astronomical effect which has already been predicted by the Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. This technique has been proved to be more sensitive to the planets that orbit around their star from moderate to large distances.

technique of microlensing
Illustration of microlensing

For the first time

The researchers have been really excited about this discovery as it was potentially the first time that someone has succeeded in discovering the planets outside our galaxy. The high frequency of the signature planets was analysed by modelling the data in order to determine the mass of the planets. By using microlensing, various planets have often been discovered within the Milky Way galaxy. During the discovery of these planets, the gravitational effect of even the smallest of objects creates a high magnification leading to a signature which can then be modelled and explained in extragalactic galaxies.

Milky Way galaxy
Milky Way galaxy

This is a potential example of how powerful the analysis techniques of extragalactic microlensing can be. This can truly be considered as a very cool science. No one can ever imagine of detecting such planets in a galaxy which is 3.8 billion light-years away even by the use of the best telescopes in the science fiction scenario. In spite this, they have not only detected them but have also estimated the mass of the planets.  This is something really remarkable and appreciating.


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