Thursday, May 19, 2011

Free-Floating Planets May Be More Common Than Stars

This artist's concept illustrates a Jupiter-like planet alone in the dark of space, floating freely without a parent star.

May 18, 2011: Astronomers have discovered a new class of Jupiter-sized planets floating alone in the dark of space, away from the light of a star. The team believes these lone worlds are probably outcasts from developing planetary systems and, moreover, they could be twice as numerous as the stars themselves.
"Although free-floating planets have been predicted, they finally have been detected," said Mario Perez, exoplanet program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "[This has] major implications for models of planetary formation and evolution."
The discovery is based on a joint Japan-New Zealand survey that scanned the center of the Milky Way galaxy during 2006 and 2007, revealing evidence for up to 10 free-floating planets roughly the mass of Jupiter. The isolated orbs, also known as orphan planets, are difficult to spot, and had gone undetected until now. The planets are located at an average approximate distance of 10,000 to 20,000 light years from Earth. Article posted here

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