But being able to detect them at all is an incredible testament to the power of microlensing, not to mention being evidence that there are planets in other galaxies. Unlike Earth, most of the exoplanets are not tightly bound to stars, so they're actually wandering through space or loosely orbiting between stars.
Professor Xinyu Dai said, ' We are very excited about this discovery. However, researchers at the University of Oklahoma used gravitational microlensing, which is a powerful technique, which was also predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. In this respect, the method is a reduced version of the gravitational lens, where an intervening object - such as a cluster of galaxies - is used to focus light from a galaxy or other large object in the background. This light then illuminates things that aren't otherwise visible.
Guerras called the study "cool science". 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. The researchers know they're looking at planets because of the speed at which they're moving. A lot of them are not tightly bound to stars. "It would be way less frequent", Guerras says.
In the university's announcement, Guerras said "there is not the slightest chance of observing these planets directly" because of the distances involved.
This technique was used to detect exoplanets in the Milky Way. This technique, which uses high-powered microlensing, has been responsible for the detection of 53 planets in the Milky Way but this is the first time it's been able to locate planets outside of it.
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"These stars are really far away".
Because of this innovative study, scientists now have the option to look outside our galaxy for answers to these fundamental questions and more. But the analysis still needs confirmation. "I think this is a case where scientific discoveries can be triggered by the spark of ideas".
Detecting exoplanets is quite hard, especially outside of our Milky Way galaxy. Previous efforts have been databased and archived. But if it was an exomoon, it was the first one ever discovered. Many of these exoplanets could be Earth-size.
Until now, scientists haven't detected any planets outside of our own Milky Way Galaxy - it's simply been too hard to discern such small things from so far away.
Lead Image: Milky Way from Cerro Paranal observatory in the Atacama Desert, Chile.