Skip to Content
Uncategorized

First Extra-Galactic Planet Spotted in Andromeda

A star in the Andromeda galaxy has a “companion” with six times the mass of Jupiter.

There’s no end to the ingenuity of these astronomers.

We’ve now spotted some 300 extra-solar planets, with rate of discovery increasing at an extraordinary rate. Astronomers have only seen one of these planets directly; the rest have all been inferred because of the effect that they have on their parent stars: changing their brightness or making them wobble. Of course, you have to be able to see the stars to do this kind of work, so astronomers can only see extra-solar planets in our local region of the Milky Way.

Until now. Gabriele Ingrosso at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, in Italy, and pals say that there is a way to spot planets in other galaxies. The trick is to exploit a phenomenon called microlensing in which the gravity of one star focuses the light from a more distant one toward Earth.

The advantage of microlensing is that it works best for more distant objects, so it’s ideal for planet hunting in other galaxies. In theory, it should be possible to see Earth-size objects in this way. The disadvantage is that microlensing is a relatively rapid, one-off event that lasts a few days at most. That makes observations difficult to verify.

It’s hard to see individual stars like this, let alone planets. Astronomers have so far spotted only about a dozen stars in Andromeda in this way, and plans are afoot to search for lots more.

But get this: the light from one of these Andromedan stars showed a distinct variability that the discoverers attribute to an orbiting companion.

And today, a new analysis from Ingrosso and co shows that this companion has a mass about six times that of Jupiter. That’s heading into brown-dwarf territory, but it’s also well within planetary territory too.

Which means that we may well have seen our first extra-galactic planet.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0906.1050: Pixel-lensing as a way to detect extrasolar planets in M31

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

lucid dreaming concept
lucid dreaming concept

I taught myself to lucid dream. You can too.

We still don’t know much about the experience of being aware that you’re dreaming—but a few researchers think it could help us find out more about how the brain works.

panpsychism concept
panpsychism concept

Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?

The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.