Monday, March 23, 2015

Rogue Planets May Be More Common Than Previously Thought

Computer simulations in the 1970s gave planetary scientists their first hints that rogue planets might exist. As planets formed around a star, some planetary material would have been scattered into far-flung orbits. A few miniplanets may have been tossed far enough to be ejected completely from the star’s gravitational grasp. 
Later estimates suggested that every planetary system in the galaxy booted at least one planet into interstellar space. With billions of planetary systems in the Milky Way, there may be billions, maybe even hundreds of billions, of rogue planets in the galaxy, says planetary scientist Sara Seager of MIT. 
The first actual observations of what appeared to be free-floating planets came in 2000, suggesting that the simulations were on to something. In the last 15 years, astronomers have stumbled upon about 50 of these planetlike worlds. Some have all the characteristics of planets, minus a parent star. Others raise questions about how stars and planets can form. They all appear to challenge the standard definition of a planet. 
The article goes on to describe how rogue planets may form, how our solar system likely ejected a rogue planet at some time in the past, and even suggests a mechanism by which a rogue planet might be able to generate enough heat to produce conditions amicable to life.

Paging Immanuel Velikovsky....

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