Astronomers have discovered more “free-floating” exotic planets that can roam deep space without being associated with any star.
While we might think that planets should orbit some kind of star, astronomers have Detection of such “fraudulent” orphans before. A new study used data collected by NASA’s planetary hunt kepler space telescope To select other possible outer planets He roams freely on his own.
“Kepler has achieved what it was never designed to do, to provide more tentative evidence for the existence of a group of Earth-mass floating planets,” said co-author Eamonn Kerns, a researcher at the University of Manchester in the UK and He said in a statement.
In the a studyPublished July 6 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the team used data collected by Kepler during a two-month period it spent in 2016 during the K2 space telescope’s mission phase.
During this two-month period, Kepler observed a field of millions of stars near the center of our galaxy every 30 minutes. When analyzing this data, the team hoped to see rare signs microgravity The events, which occur when the gravity of a massive foreground object bend the light of a star or quasar farther away, act like a cosmic magnifying glass allowing scientists to see objects that may be too far away to locate.
Over the course of the study, they found 27 candidate short-duration signals of varying lengths, from an hour all the way up to 10 days.
Some of these signals have previously been seen in other data captured from Earth on Earth. However, data from the four shortest of these microlensing events are consistent with the existence of planets of roughly the same mass as Land.
If the precise lensing events observed with Kepler would reveal a host star, or a star with planets in its orbit, scientists might expect a longer signal. Therefore, by finding evidence of these planets but without the longer signal typically associated with a host star, the team suspects that the planets may be free-floating.
It’s possible that if these were, in fact, nefarious, starless planets, they might have originally formed around a host star and were pulled apart by the gravitational force of a more massive planet or object, according to the statement.
But detecting these signals was no easy feat, especially as Kepler’s vision was not designed to detect planets using the micro-lens, and it was not designed to study such a crowded field of stars. (Kepler, who was Decommissioned in November 2018 After nearly a decade of working in space, he’s been searching for planets using the “transit method,” looking for stellar dips in brightness that occur when a planet crosses the face of its host star.)
“It is very difficult to find these signals,” lead author Ian MacDonald, a researcher at the University of Manchester, said in the same statement. “Our observations pointed to a sick elderly telescope with blurred vision in one of the busiest parts of the sky, where there are already thousands of bright stars varying in brightness, and thousands of asteroids slithering through our field.”
“Out of this cacophony, we try to extract a small, distinct brightness caused by the planets, and we only have one chance of seeing a signal before it’s gone. It’s just as easy as looking for a twinkling to graze in the middle of a highway with just a mobile phone,” MacDonald said.
To do this, the team had to develop new techniques to analyze their data. However, while their results are impressive and exciting, they do not confirm the existence of these rogue planets on their own. Future notes on missions like NASA Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope Perhaps the European Space Agency? Euclid The mission, both of which will be able to detect signals of minute lens events, can be used to help confirm the existence of these alien planets, according to the statement.
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