Rogue planets are elusive cosmic objects that have similar masses like the planets in our Solar System. But they do not orbit a star. They roam freely on their own. A team of astronomers have used the data from several European Southern Observatory telescopes and other facilities and discovered at least 70 new rogue planets in our galaxy. This is the largest group of rogue planets ever discovered. This is also an important step towards understanding the origins and features of these mysterious galactic nomads. The new findings have been published in Nature Astronomy.
Rogue planets stay far away from any star illuminating them. This is why it is impossible to image them. But the new team of astronomers took advantage of the fact that these planets are still hot enough to glow, even after million years of their formation. This fact made them directly detectable by sensitive cameras on large telescopes. Scientists found at least 70 new rogue planets with masses comparable to Jupiter. They have found it in a star-forming region close to our Sun, in the Upper Scorpius and Ophiuchus constellations.
The team has used data spanning about 20 years from a number of telescopes on the ground and in space.
The team of scientists used observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, the VLT Survey Telescope and the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope located in Chile.
Scientists also used data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite. This has marked a huge success for the collaboration of ground- and space-based telescopes in the exploration and understanding of our Universe.
These new findings suggests that there could be many more of these elusive, starless planets that is yet to be discovered.
The astronomers will study these rogue planets and they will find out how these mysterious objects form. Scientists think rogue planets can form from the collapse of a gas cloud that is too small to lead to the formation of a star. Another possible reason can be these rogue planets could have been kicked out from their parent system. But the correct reason is unknown to scientists till now.