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1st planet found outside galaxy? + Surprise: Big Bang isn’t start of universe anymore

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Astronomers may have discovered the first planet outside of our galaxy

INTRO: Signs of a planet transiting a star outside of the Milky Way galaxy may have been detected for the first time. This intriguing result, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, opens up a new window to search for exoplanets at greater distances than ever before.

The possible exoplanet candidate is located in the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51), also called the Whirlpool Galaxy because of its distinctive profile.

Exoplanets are defined as planets outside of our Solar System. Until now, astronomers have found all other known exoplanets and exoplanet candidates in the Milky Way galaxy, almost all of them less than about 3,000 light-years from Earth. An exoplanet in M51 would be about 28 million light-years away, meaning it would be thousands of times farther away than those in the Milky Way.

"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," said Rosanne Di Stefano of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study, which was published today in Nature Astronomy.

This new result is based on transits, events in which the passage of a planet in front of a star blocks some of the star's light and produces a characteristic dip. Astronomers using both ground-based and space-based telescopes—like those on NASA's Kepler and TESS missions—have searched for dips in optical light, electromagnetic radiation humans can see, enabling the discovery of thousands of planets... (MORE)

Surprise: the Big Bang isn’t the beginning of the universe anymore

EXCERPT: This new picture gives us three important pieces of information about the beginning of the universe that run counter to the traditional story that most of us learned. First, the original notion of the hot Big Bang, where the universe emerged from an infinitely hot, dense, and small singularity — and has been expanding and cooling, full of matter and radiation ever since — is incorrect. The picture is still largely correct, but there’s a cutoff to how far back in time we can extrapolate it.

Second, observations have well established the state that occurred prior to the hot Big Bang: cosmic inflation. Before the hot Big Bang, the early universe underwent a phase of exponential growth, where any preexisting components to the universe were literally “inflated away.” When inflation ended, the universe reheated to a high, but not arbitrarily high, temperature, giving us the hot, dense, and expanding universe that grew into what we inhabit today.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we can no longer speak with any sort of knowledge or confidence as to how — or even whether — the universe itself began. By the very nature of inflation, it wipes out any information that came before the final few moments: where it ended and gave rise to our hot Big Bang. Inflation could have gone on for an eternity, it could have been preceded by some other nonsingular phase, or it could have been preceded by a phase that did emerge from a singularity. Until the day comes where we discover how to extract more information from the universe than presently seems possible, we have no choice but to face our ignorance. The Big Bang still happened a very long time ago, but it wasn’t the beginning we once supposed it to be. (MORE - missing details)

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