HomeNewsAstronomers Discover First Planet Outside of the Milky Way

Astronomers Discover First Planet Outside of the Milky Way

by Michael Freeman
(Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Discovering a new planet has to be exciting for scientists, to say the least. Nonetheless, we usually find planets inside the Milky Way, but if confirmed, a recent discovery could be the first planet outside it.

Located 28 million light-years from Earth, astronomers may have discovered the first planet outside the Milky Way. NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton telescope contributed to the find. According to a statement NASA produced, the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51) may house the exoplanet candidate.

Exoplanets are planets outside our solar system. While astronomers have located many of them and possible candidates previously, all have been within the Milky Way until now. Being in this galaxy, most have been less than 3,000 light-years from Earth. However, the M51 planet would be a staggering 28 million light-years away. That distance means this planet would be thousands of times farther than previously discovered planets.

Rosanne Di Stefano from the Center for Astrophysics Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge led a study for finding planet candidates and explained it in the NASA statement. “We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies.”

Unfortunately, it’s a bit early to be celebrating. Scientists state more data is needed and its current orbit will make planet confirmation difficult. This planet’s orbit is so large it wouldn’t cross in front of its binary partner for almost 70 years. Additionally, though unlikely, it could be a false positive, with a cloud of gas and dust passing in front of the X-ray source.

Regardless, the prospect of finding new planets via this method is exciting.

NASA Plans to Send Next Rocket to the Moon in 2022

In other space-related news, NASA’s Artemis I mission aims to bring back regular moon missions. Unfortunately, the mission had to be delayed and now the organization is shooting for a 2022 launch.

The Space Launch System (SLS) will now take off in February 2022, provided nothing goes awry. The Artemis I mission serves as the beginning of many space missions involving the moon. A press release last week detailed NASA’s plans and hopes for the next series of missions.

Mike Bolger, Exploration Ground Systems program manager expressed excitement and confidence everything will go according to plan. “Our team has demonstrated tremendous dedication preparing for the launch of Artemis I. While there is still work to be done to get to launch, with continued integrated tests and Wet Dress Rehearsal, seeing the fully stacked SLS is certainly a reward for all of us.”

Stating Artemis I serves as a foundation for future missions, NASA hopes it’ll help us go to the moon and beyond.