(ORDO NEWS) — Wandering planets, or orphan planets, are hard-to-detect objects with masses comparable to those of the planets in the solar system, but which do not orbit a star, but instead freely move through space. Until now, scientists have discovered very few objects of this class, but in a new study, a team of astronomers using several ground and space observatories has discovered at least 70 new orphan planets in our Galaxy.
This newly discovered group of planets has become the largest of its kind to date, and the discovery was an important step forward towards understanding the origin and characteristics of these mysterious “nomads in the Galaxy.”
“We didn’t know how many orphan planets to expect and were surprised to find so many,” said study’s first author Núria Miret-Roig, an astronomer at the Astrophysical Laboratory of Bordeaux, France, and the University of Vienna. , Austria.
Wandering planets far from any star capable of illuminating them are usually very difficult to detect. However, Miret Roig and her team took advantage of the fact that in the first few million years after their formation, such planets are still hot enough to glow, as a result of which they became possible to observe them with the help of sensitive cameras mounted on powerful telescopes.
Researchers have discovered at least 70 new wanderer planets with masses comparable to that of Jupiter in the star-forming region close to the Sun, in the constellations Upper Scorpio and Squire.
According to the results of this study, there may be many more planets of this type in the Galaxy than we are used to thinking – possibly up to several billion, the authors explained.
The work was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
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