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Space Is Full Of Planets, And Most Of Them Don’t Even Have Stars

20 Mar 2018, 14:01 UTC
Space Is Full Of Planets, And Most Of Them Don’t Even Have Stars
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Rogue planets may be numerous in the galaxy, but it surprises most to learn that there are between 100 and 100,000 rogue planets for every star in our galaxy, putting the total number of planets wandering through the Milky Way at somewhere around a quadrillion. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)For every planet that orbits a star like our own, there are likely thousands of ‘orphan planets’ wandering the galaxy alone.Here in the Solar System, we can watch our star’s eight planets orbit with confidence, knowing full well that we’ve discovered at least the majority of round, orbit-clearing worlds around our Sun. But there’s a 4.5 billion year history that we can’t fully know from our vantage point today. All we can be certain of are which planets have survived until now. What about the worlds that were formed around our Sun early on, and then ejected by some violent gravitational process? What about the worlds that would have been planets had they only formed around a star, rather than in the abyss of interstellar space? Over the past few years, we’ve begun to find these orphan planets — sometimes called rogue planets — in the spaces between stars. Based on what we ...

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