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Scientists Find Evidence Of Thousands Of Planets In Distant Galaxy

Scientists Find Evidence Of Thousands Of Planets In Distant Galaxy

To find planets beyond our galaxy, however, something a little more powerful than a star was needed.

This discovery is even more fantastic in the context in which identifying planets within the Milky Way was already extremely challenging.

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.

Usually astronomers find planets through one of two ways: watching a planet dim the light of a star as it passes across the star - the transit method - or watching a star wobble due to planets orbiting around it - the radial velocity method.

Detecting exoplanets is quite hard, especially outside of our Milky Way galaxy.

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

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Dai says the study opens up the new field of studying starless planets beyond our galaxy, and could help us compare free extragalactic exoplanets with their intragalactic counterparts.

For the discovery, the team used a technique called microlensing - a method capable of discovering planets at truly great distances from the Earth. "We analysed the high frequency of the signature by modelling the data to determine the mass", Dai said.

Astronomers used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to probe for planets in a galaxy a little closer to us - roughly 3.8 billion light-years away - using microlensing from the quasar. Modeling and explaining the signature from this highly magnified light revealed the group of planets. "Not even with the best telescope one can imagine in a science fiction scenario", said Guerras in a statement. 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.

"This is the first time anyone has discovered planets outside our galaxy", Oklahoma University professor Xinyu Dai said in a news release.

Guerras said that the breakthrough highlights the power of the microlensing technique. But being able to detect them reflects the incredible power of the microlens, not to mention the evidence - even if we knew it - that there are indeed planets in other galaxies. Scientists have already discovered planets in different galaxies, such as those in our neighboring galaxy Andromeda, but this is the first time that they have discovered planets in a galaxy 3.8 billion light years away.