Planets beyond our galaxy spotted for the first time
Scientists have used light bent by gravity itself to detect planets over 3 billion light-years away from Earth.
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Scientists from the University of Oklahoma applied this technique to data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to zoom in on a galaxy called RX J1131-1231 some 3.8 billion light-years away.
What they found was that a population of unbound or "rogue" planets that don't orbit a particular star and appear to be roaming around the distant galaxy. The team calculates that the population includes planets ranging from the size of the moon to the size of Jupiter.
"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," said OU postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Guerras in a news release Friday. "However, we are able to study them, unveil their presence and even have an idea of their masses. This is very cool science."
Until a few decades ago, it wasn't clear there were any planets beyond our solar system. We've since observed thousands of exoplanets within the Milky Way and presumed that billions more are out there unseen, as well as trillions more in other galaxies. Now we finally have evidence to back up the presumption that extragalactic planets exist, and the ever-emerging notion that our corner of the universe may not be so unique.
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