Feeds

Galaxy is teeming with homeless planets

Born under a wandering star…

Remote control for virtualized desktops

The galaxy – and presumably, if we’re in a normal-enough galaxy, the rest of the universe – has a bit less empty space than we thought, according to a study by the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics (KIPAC).

The research suggests the Milky Way could hold many millions of “nomad planets” – many thousands existing for each main-sequence star in the galaxy.

KIPAC – a joint institute of Stanford University and America’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory – is suggesting that nomad planets could outnumber stars in the Milky Way, by as much as 100,000:1.

Over recent years, gravitational microlensing (the refocusing of a star’s light by planets passing “in front” of them) has provided new insights into planets that don’t appear to be bound to stars.

Louis Strigari, leader of the team that reported the results to the Royal Astronomical Society, suggests that some of the planetary orphans could even retain enough heat for microbial life – if they have enough tectonic and radioactive processes to generate heat and enough atmosphere to retain it.

Most of the 500-odd exoplanets discovered in the past two decades orbit stars, but last year, astronomers turned up a dozen nomad planets that don’t orbit stars. Some may have been ejected from the solar systems in which they formed; others may need to be explained with new theories of planetary formation.

However, Strigari believes known values like the mass of the galaxy (estimated from its gravitational pull) mean it could be “teeming” with nomad planets. As new instruments like the ground-based Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the space-based Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope, both of which will come into service during the 2020s, will provide the kind of observations that will drive new estimates of the number of nomads, Strigari’s paper states.

Strigari also speculates that nomad planets, if they are able to harbor life, could also provide a vector for scattering it through the galaxy. He is, however, clear that such ideas are speculative. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Free virtual appliance for wire data analytics
The ExtraHop Discovery Edition is a free virtual appliance will help you to discover the performance of your applications across the network, web, VDI, database, and storage tiers.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.