In a galaxy far, far away: NASA finds first possible planet outside Milky Way

NASA has made an amazing discovery: the first possible planet outside our galaxy.

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A possible exoplanet, meaning a planet not orbiting our sun, was found in the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51) by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA said in a news release.

The exoplanet was found in a binary system called M51-ULS-1, located inside of the M51 galaxy. The system has “a black hole or a neutron star orbiting a companion star with a mass about 20 times that of the Sun,” NASA explained.

To put the discovery into perspective, all other exoplanets have been found less than 3,000 light-years from Earth, but still in the Milky Way.

The M51 exoplanet is estimated to be 28 million light-years away.

“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,” Rosanne Di Stefano said, in the news release.

Di Stefano led the study and is from the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard & Smishionian in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The researchers used ground- and space-based telescopes to study transits, or when a planet passes in front of a star. They used X-rays since the area that produces bright X-rays is small, and a planet would block most or all of the rays.

Not only is finding a potential planet earth-shattering research, but the story behind the mass is also nearly unbelievable.

“If a planet exists in this system, it likely had a tumultuous history and a violent past. An exoplanet in the system would have had to survive a supernova explosion that created the neutron star or black hole. The future may also be dangerous. At some point the companion star could also explode as a supernova and blast the planet once again with extremely high levels of radiation,” NASA said in the news release.

For more on the discovery, click here.