The technology allows astronomers to see planets of Jupiter’s mass in other galaxies
Researchers from the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) claim it is the first planet to be seen outside of our galaxy.
The scientists used a new method of viewing space called microlensing. The method uses a nearer object to bend the light of a distant star when the two align with an observer.
The effect of large, massive objects between an observer and a distant planet or star can cause distortion or multiple images as the intermediary object’s gravity bends the passing light.
Microlensing, by contrast, occurs when a less massive object lies in the middle. The technology allows astronomers to see planets of Jupiter’s mass in other galaxies.
Because the effect depends on smaller objects that will be moving quickly relative to one another, microlensing events are fleeting, happening over the course of minutes or hours.
Moreover, the mutual alignment of two small, far-flung objects with an observer on the Earth is exceptionally rare.
For that reason, dense collections of millions of stars, such as the Andromeda galaxy, are surveyed in order to detect them.
But given that microlensing events from a given pair of objects happens just once, astronomers cannot return to the planet candidate to confirm the idea.
Dr De Paolis, one of the researchers, said he was “encouraged” by the possibility of detecting planets at such phenomenal distances.
“The interesting thing is that the technology is in place to truly see planets of Jupiter’s mass and even less in other galaxies,” he said. “It’s an exceptional thing.”