NASA may have discovered for the first time traces of a planet outside our galaxy.
Traces of a planet orbiting a star outside the Milky Way may have been found for the first time. The discovery was made with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which has been in orbit around Earth 22 years ago. This is a device that uses X-rays to map distant celestial bodies.
The possible exoplanet is located in a galaxy called Messier 51 (M51), NASA reports on its website. It is also called a vortex galaxy.
An exoplanet is a planet outside our solar system. Traces of more than 5,000 of these exoplanets have been found, but so far they have all been in our galaxy.
very very far
An exoplanet in the M51 galaxy would be about 28 million light-years away. Thus, you will be several thousand exoplanets that may be in our Milky Way galaxy.
One light year is a distance of 9461 billion kilometers. In order to reach the planet that may now be found, one would have to travel 28 million times 9,461 billion kilometers.
This might make you realize how far away this is: the distance to the moon is 384,400 kilometers, nearly ten times the circumference of the Earth. It takes light 1.3 seconds to travel from Earth to the Moon. The distance from the Earth to the Sun is 8.3 light minutes.
From Earth to this possible new planet in the galaxy M51, the distance is 28 million light-years.
One can safely say that any visit to the newly discovered planet is not immediately relevant.
– We are trying to open a whole new arena to find new worlds by searching for planets with X-ray bandwidth. It’s a strategy that makes it possible to detect them in other galaxies, Rosanne Di Stefano says. She led the study, which was published in the journal Nature Astronomy. She works at the Harvard and Smithsonian Astrophysics Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Distinctive planet retreat
So how do you find traces of a planet very, very far away? What scientists have done so far is to measure the star’s light. If a planet passes around the star, some of the light will be blocked and you can see a characteristic dip.
The researchers used measurements from telescopes on Earth and in space to read such dips in measurements of light and electromagnetic radiation. Thus, they were able to find traces of thousands of planets.
This time, Di Stefano and her colleagues measured radiation from binary star systems that emit a lot of X-rays. These are systems that typically consist of a neutron star or black hole that sucks gas from a nearby star.
The nearby matter becomes very hot and emits a lot of X-rays.
Because the region that produces X-rays is small, any transiting planet can block all X-rays. This makes detection easier, because the x-rays disappear completely.
This makes it possible to detect exoplanets much farther away than can be detected by photometry.
The discovery cannot be confirmed 70 years ago
Scientists have found a possible exoplanet in a system called M51-ULS-1. This binary system contains a black hole or neutron star orbiting a star about 20 times the size of our sun.
The change in the x-rays found lasted for about three hours. Then the x-rays dropped to zero. Scientists have estimated that the potential planet must be the size of Saturn. They think it’s about twice as wide as Saturn’s orbit.
NASA wrote on its website that while the study is fascinating, more data is needed to determine if what was measured actually originated from a planet. Then the researchers face a major challenge. They believe that it will take 70 years before the potential planet passes in the same place again after continuing the long journey around the star system.
We’ll likely have to wait decades to see a new clip, says co-author Nia Imara, who works at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
– And because we’re not sure how long it takes, we don’t know exactly when we have to look.
The result of the violent past
If it is true that there is a planet in this system, it means that it has had a variable and violent past. An exoplanet in such a system would have had to survive a supernova explosion that resulted in a neutron star or black hole.
The future is also uncertain. An accompanying star can also explode like a supernova.
Di Stefano and her colleagues looked for X-ray traces in 238 systems in three different galaxies and used data from ESA’s Chandra and XMM-Newton in their analysis.
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