We're not alone—scientists finally found planets outside of the Milky Way
2,000 planets far, far away
Scientists say 2,000 planets are “wandering” through an elliptical galaxy far, far away. These planets are the first we’ve discovered outside of our own galactic neighborhood, which is insanely cool.
“We are very excited about this discovery. This is the first time anyone has discovered planets outside our galaxy,” said Xinyu Dai, of the University of Oklahoma.
But what’s more exciting is the way the researchers were able to find these planets, using a technique called gravitational microlensing.
“This galaxy is located 3.8 billion light-years away, and 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 Dai.
That’s why gravitational microlensing is so cool. The phenomenon magnifies distant objects because of the way the gravity of a closer, massive object bends light. Essentially, this technique implies the existence of these further objects (in this case, planets in a far-off galaxy) rather than giving the researchers a direct view of it.
But the fact that scientists can use any technique at all to observe things that are 3.8 billion light years away is pretty astonishing. “We are able to study [the planets], unveil their presence and even have an idea of their masses,” said Dai. “This is very cool science.”
MOVIES Then and now