Monday, 18 June, 2018

OU astrophysicists discover planets in extragalactic galaxies using microlensing

Microlensing is an astronomical phenomenon that uses the light bent by gravity itself to detect planets Microlensing is an astronomical phenomenon that uses the light bent by gravity itself to detect planets
Grady Vargas | 07 February, 2018, 01:57

A team of astrophysicists has announced the detection of several hundred planets in another galaxy, out of the Milky Way. In this astronomical technique, scientists make use of the gravitational force of huge celestial objects to observe phenomena taking place billions of light years into the universe. Some of the planets spotted are the size of the moon, while some are as massive as Jupiter.

Xinyu Dai, professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences, said: "We are very excited about this discovery".

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.

"We analysed the high frequency of the signature by modelling the data to determine the mass".

The planets outside of our galaxy were instead found using a technique called microlensing, which involves two moving stars or objects aligning from the vantage point of Earth. A later research discovered no findings proving that the planet was really there at all, while it was earlier thought that the planet has been originated in neighboring galaxy before getting devoured by the Milky Way.

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Usually astronomers find planets through one of two ways: watching a planet dim the light of a star as it passes across the star - the transit method - or watching a star wobble due to planets orbiting around it - the radial velocity method.

NASA says that now, by developing gravitational lensing, more exoplanet discoveries will be made within and beyond the Milky Way Galaxy, in the recent future. Sometimes they even identify distant planets through direct imaging, actually resolving the planet from its host star.

More than 2,000 planets were detected, a lot of them wandering through space not orbiting a star or orbiting between several stars, National Geographic reported. As Guerras concisely summarized in the press release, "This is very cool science". Up till now, this technique has only been used to detect planets in the Milky Way. But they were still able to use their calculations to estimate the number of planets and masses.

In the university's announcement, Guerras said "there is not the slightest chance of observing these planets directly" because of the distances involved.

"As a planet orbits a star, the gravitational field of the system can bend the light of a distant star behind it", Science Alert reported.

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