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Scientists believe they have spotted the first planet outside the Milky Way

NASA says a group of scientists may have discovered signs of a new planet beyond the Milky Way. The potential discovery could be the very first planet found in another galaxy.

The potential planet, unnamed and roughly the size of Saturn, has been spotted in the spiral galaxy Messier 51, or what’s known as the Whirlpool galaxy, about 28 million light years from Earth, according to The NASA.

The researchers made the discovery with a NASA telescope, called the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and using a new technique to find planets known as the X-ray transit method. Exoplanets, which NASA defines as planets outside of our solar system are difficult for astronomers to detect.

But with the new method, scientists were able to record when an object moves over a star and blocks its x-rays. The duration and intensity of the object’s movement can tell researchers more about the size and orbit. of the potential planet.

This image marks the potential planet discovered in M51.

NASA / CXC / SAO / R. DiStefano

Astronomers published their findings in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday.

“We are trying to open up a whole new arena to find other worlds by looking for candidate planets at x-ray wavelengths, a strategy that allows them to be discovered in other galaxies,” said Rosanne Di Stefano, astrophysicist at Harvard. -Smithsonian Center, who led the study.

The discovery is exciting, but the researchers stressed that more data is needed to confirm the existence of the planet, which could take decades. NASA has said the size of the planet’s possible orbit is so large that it “would not cross in front of its binary partner for about 70 years.”

“Unfortunately, to confirm that we are seeing a planet, we will probably have to wait decades to see another transit,” said Nia Imara, study co-author and astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “And due to uncertainties over how long it takes to orbit, we wouldn’t know exactly when to look.”


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