Astronomers may have found planet beyond Milky Way for first time

Astronomers have spotted tantalizing signs of a planet in a star system outside the Milky Way, which, if it’s confirmed, would be the first ever found in another galaxy.

The discovery, reported in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, demonstrates a new technique for finding far-off worlds, and it could significantly expand the search for so-called extragalactic exoplanets.

“It’s always fun when you find something that is the first of its kind,” said the study’s lead researcher, Rosanne Di Stefano, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “Once we began to find planets locally, it made sense that there were planets in other galaxies, but this is humbling and really exciting.”

The possible planet was discovered in a spiral galaxy called Messier 51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, which is more than 23 million light-years from Earth.

The first exoplanets, or planets outside the solar system, were discovered in the 1990s, and they required combining a number of complicated detection techniques. Since then, however, NASA missions like the Kepler Space Telescope and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite have uncovered a bonanza of worlds throughout the galaxy.

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