Scientists have discovered something amazing. Though this has been theorized by many scientists over the past millennia, there is now proof that other planets exist outside our galaxy.
Xinyu Dai, an astrophysicist and professor at the University of Oklahoma, used data from a NASA X-ray lab in space to detect the very first group of planets that exist beyond the Milky Way galaxy, according to Washington Post.
The amazing discovery features a couple of planets that range in size from one that’s close to the Earth’s moon to bigger ones like Jupiter.
In the study published last Feb. 2 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Dai explores the process of finding stars and planets beyond the Milky Way. One of the key observations in the study is how these planets create a different relationship to moons that the ones we have in our galaxy. The exoplanets seem to be somehow independent of moons and stars “so they’re actually wandering through space or loosely orbiting between stars.” Dai believes that this evidence will bring more exploration to the trillions of other exoplanets out there.
“We can estimate that the number of planets in this [faraway] galaxy is more than a trillion.”
Dai’s co-author Eduardo Guerras noted that microlensing could just be one of the key steps in unraveling more exoplanets. Since these planets are about 3.8 billion light-years away, microlensing is the only tool scientists can use for now.
“This microlensing is amplifying something that is very small and changing colors, which makes no sense,” Guerras says, “or it’s amplifying a small region of a bigger object and that object has different colors.”
Dai and Guerras hope that their research study would pave the way for more scientists and scientific institutions to shift focus on discovering exoplanets.
“We hope other teams publish independent analyses to confirm our findings. I think this is a case where scientific discoveries can be triggered by the spark of ideas.”
According to National Geographic, the new discovery should also be a celebration of renowned genius Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Dai said they both relied on the theory to create a foundation for their study.
“Einstein’s theory suggests light bends when tugged by the force of gravity. In this case, the light is coming from a quasar — the nucleus of a galaxy with a swirling black hole — that emits powerful radiation in the distance.”
This then helped Dai and Guerras find a technique in using microlensing to find the planets.
However, scientists like David Bennett, a gravitational lensing expert at NASA, expressed skepticism and said that though the research is interesting, there could be a possibility that the data they found could be “interpreted in a way to suggest the objects were not extragalactic.”
Meanwhile, others praised their work and said that the data supports their premise and that these, indeed, are exoplanets outside the Milky Way.
“This discovery, if the interpretation of the data holds up, looks very exciting indeed,” Priyamvada Natarajan, a theoretical astrophysicist at Yale University, told NBC.