(TheConservativeNews.org) – While the world’s scientists know more about space than they do their own oceans, there is plenty to discover in the void. No matter how many times researchers make new advances, progress is always exciting. The most recent finding is the first of its kind, making it that much more exhilarating.
The discovery of another planet is newsworthy enough on its own, but this one is unique in that it’s the first one researchers have found outside of the Milky Way Galaxy. At least they think that’s what they’ve found; astronomers have only witnessed signs that it’s a planet but haven’t yet been able to confirm their suspicions.
Astronomers discovered signs of the planet using a technique that Rosanne Di Stefano, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the study’s lead researcher, and her team first theorized in 2018. The technique is similar to one researchers commonly use to find celestial bodies, which they call the “transit method.” It involves observing stars to watch for changes in the light they emit, showing that a planet or other celestial body is passing them in orbit.
Stefano’s technique builds off the same principle, but instead of using light, it uses X-rays. Because the potential planet is in a binary system, her team was able to make good use of the technique. Stefano indicated that the signal was evident as the X-ray production of the area was relatively small, and the object passing in front of it blocked nearly all of the emissions. The result was a steady and predictable pattern in the X-ray readings.
A New Galaxy
The discovery of exoplanets, planets outside of our solar system, might be nothing new, but planets outside of our galaxy are. The galaxy that this new planet calls home is called Messier 51, or its simpler alternative, the Whirlpool Galaxy. Astronomers have discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets since the 1990s, all of which have been in the Milky Way and have averaged around 3,000 light-years away from Earth. Scientists estimate the new planet in Messier 51 is around 23 million light-years away from our home planet.
A Stanford University physics professor, Bruce Macintosh, noted that the use of X-ray transits is innovative but he doesn’t believe it has much of a place in future research. Macintosh admitted that if they do confirm the object is a planet, they won’t only prove planets are common throughout the universe, but also that they can be found in uncommon places.
The new planet, for example, is close to two stars, one of which became a neutron star after it experienced a supernova. The planet shows that a world can survive the death of its star as long as the event doesn’t result in a black hole. It will be interesting to see how future research will unfold, given the new information.
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