Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Solo planets may be surprisingly common | Science News
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.
It’s time to go beyond serendipitous discoveries, says Michael Liu of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. He would like to see a systematic search for other untethered worlds.
“A census of rogues,” Liu says, “is the only way we are going to fully understand the extent of what’s out there in the Milky Way.”