Did We Find An Extragalactic Planet Five Years Ago?

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Has science finally caught up to the suspected discovery of a planet outside of our own galaxy from five years ago? Gravitational microlensing may explain the mysteries behind a 2004 sighting of something unusual in our neighbor galaxy of Andromeda.

In 2004, a group of scientists at the Isaac Newton Telescope, on the Spanish island of La Palma, noticed "an uneven microlensing event" from the Andromeda galaxy. As New Scientist explains, microlensing is when "a distant source star is briefly magnified by the gravity of an object passing in front of it"; at the time, the 2004 event was thought to be a binary star, but new computer simulations created by a team led by Philippe Jetzer of the University of Zurich - one of the scientists who discovered it - are suggesting otherwise:

[A]ccording to the new simulation, the lensing pattern fits a star with a smaller companion weighing just 6 or 7 times the mass of Jupiter. "It plausibly could be a planet," says Andrew Gould of Ohio State University, who was not part of the team. The matter will probably not be settled, since lensing events occur randomly and do not repeat themselves, and for the foreseeable future, other techniques will be unable to detect planets beyond the Milky Way.


Goddammit, science. Why haven't you invented FTL space travel yet, so we could find out whether or not we really have discovered planets next door already?

First extragalactic exoplanet may have been found [New Scientist]