Researchers discover planets outside of our galaxy for first time

Representative image

Until this study, there has been no evidence of planets in other galaxies.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma used microlensing - an astronomical phenomenon that allows scientists to use gravity from huge objects such as stars to peer hundreds of billions of lightyears into the universe - to detect the planets.

As there are a lot of stars that are closer to the Earth than these distant planets, there's a lot of bright, distracting lights in the sky that keep us from being able to see clearly outside our own galaxy.

Priyamvada, Natrajan, a theoretical astrophysicist at Yale University said, "This discovery if the interpretation of the data holds up, looks very exciting indeed".

This is the first time success has been achieved for the study of planets outside Milky Way even though plenty of planets have been identified in the Milky Way. Directly viewing exoplanets within the Milky Way is almost impossible, so astrophysicists have to sift through data and use other detection techniques that give way to evidence of planet signatures. Using another galaxy about 3.8 billion light years away as the lens, the Chandra Observatory collected four images of J1131's light bending around the gravitational field of the lens galaxy. The team then applied a formula to the data they gathered and determined that the only explanation for the particular energy signatures they were seeing was the presence of thousands of planets. 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.

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Scientists have confirmed the existence of over 3,600 exoplanets-planets outside our solar system-and that number's steadily increasing.

Eduardo Guerras, a researcher from the University of Okhlahoma, said "This is an example of how powerful extragalactic microlensing can be". This is the first time that planets are being located in other galaxies. These newly-discovered extragalactic planets, however, are located some 3.8 billion years away.

Guerras called the study "cool science".

"However, we are able to study them, unveil their presence, and even have an idea of their masses", he added.

Guerras explained that there is not the slightest chance of observing these planets directly. In their new paper, the researchers demonstrated that a population of rogue planets (i.e. planets not orbiting stars) in RXJ1131-1231 could account for the lensing at the smallest scale.

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