Space is a cold, dark place and at times we are reminded of how cold and dark it can be. Thanks to new research published this week in Nature Astronomy, we now know that astronomers have discovered a group of up to 170 rogue planets floating free in space. Rogue planets, or rogue worlds, are essentially planets that do not orbit a star. So they float aimlessly through space with no driving orbit. The study data is based on new images from the European Southern Observatory. Once fully deciphered, it could give us a little more insight into how big our galaxy actually is.
Researchers have not confirmed that all 170 discoveries are planets. However, they say there could be billions of rogue planets in the Milky Way.
According to a press release, rogue planets are among the elusive cosmic objects we’ve found in space. Because they’re so big and not near stars, they’re harder to spot. In fact, they’re so hard to spot that the team had to use data collected over the course of 20 years to discover so many.
“We didn’t know how many to expect and are happy to have found so many « , Said Núria Miret-Roig, astronomer at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux, France, and the University of Vienna, Austria, in the press release.
» We have the tiny movements, the colors and the luminosity of tens of millions of sources measured over a large area of the sky. These measurements enabled us to reliably identify the weakest objects in this region, the rogue planets. ”
The researchers say that they have discovered at least 70 new rogue planets with the data. However, there is a possibility of up to 170 based on the observations they made.
According to astronomers, rogue planets can be born or driven out of their orbits as virgin planets. Displacements happen when the star deteriorates and eventually dies, orbiting the planets without anything. Other rogue worlds arise from the creation of systems that cannot form a star. When that happens, the planets break away and begin wandering aimlessly through the darkness of space.
The exact number of rogue worlds found in the Milky Way is unknown. And the researchers are working to fully determine how much data they recently used. The idea that billions of massive planetary bodies could simply float freely in space is another fascinating thing about the cold darkness that surrounds our world.
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