Record-breaking heave of starless 'rogue' planets discovered by Astronomers

Record-breaking heave of starless ‘rogue’ planets discovered by Astronomers

Discovery of Dozens Rogue Planets

Hundreds of new “rogue” planets have been discovered by astronomers, nearly tripling the known number of these mysterious free-roaming worlds.

A group of researchers discovered at least 70 exoplanets. According to a new study, the largest single group of rogue planets ever detected without parent stars was discovered in a stretch of space roughly 420 light-years from Earth.

Nria Miret-Roig, the study’s principal author, said, “We didn’t know how many to expect and are pleased to have found so many.” She works as an astronomer at the Bordeaux Laboratoire d’Astrophysique and the University of Vienna in Austria.

The majority of exoplanets are discovered through studies of their home stars. Small stellar motions generated by the gravitational push of an orbiting planet, for example, or tiny brightness dips caused when a world “transits” its parent star’s face are observed by astronomers.

Rogue planets, on the other hand, are not amenable to such tactics, making them far more difficult to locate. Astronomers have traditionally depended on gravitational microlensing, a technique that involves watching foreground objects move in front of background stars. During such passages, the foreground body can function as a gravitational lens, bending the light from the distant star in ways that disclose the mass and other characteristics of the nearby object.

However, Miret-Roig and her team did not do so. They looked at pictures and other data obtained by several ground and space-based telescopes over 20 years. This included the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the Subaru Telescope of Japan in Hawaii, the Gaia spacecraft of the European Space Agency, and the Dark Energy Camera, which is mounted on the 4-meter Victor M. Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Measuring the motions, colors, and Luminosities

Miret-Roig explained, “We measured the small motions, hues, and luminosities of tens of millions of sources across a vast area of the sky.” “We were able to locate the faintest objects in this region, the rogue planets, using these observations.”

70 to 170 gas-giant rogue planets released infrared energy, according to the researchers. They detailed their findings in a new paper published today (Dec. 22) in the journal Nature Astronomy. For the first few million years of their lives, young rogues of this weight blaze with the heat of their development.

The range from uncertainties is:

  • The observations did not allow the researchers to determine the exact masses of the detected bodies.
  • Brown dwarfs, which are “failed stars” with a mass at least 13 times that of Jupiter, are more likely to be “failed stars” than planets.

The latest findings support the theory that rogue planets are abundant in the Milky Way galaxy, maybe outnumbering “regular” worlds orbiting parent stars.

And, according to study team members, further investigation of these unexpected worlds, as well as others like them, could help astronomers better understand how rogue planets form.

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