Rogue planets wander through space without bouncing a star, and now scientists have found two more of these free floating worlds.
For centuries the very existence of horror planets was hypothetical. Because they are not near a star that lights them, they are extremely difficult to detect. Then came a technique called gravitational microlensation.
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Using gravity microlensing, researchers find planets by noting when a rogue plane interrupts a star’s light from our point of view. The planet suddenly works as a lens for the star’s light, bending it as seen from the ground. The bigger the planet the bigger the break.
It’s not the most effective system. Some astronomers (like Neil DeGrasse Tyson) estimate that there are billions of rogue planets in the Milky Way. But while humanity has proven to be good at finding exoplanets linked to stars, researchers have only identified a dozen or so bad guys. That’s what makes us two to the top so big.
The planets are officially named for OGLE-201
7-BLG-0560 and OGLE-2012-BLG-1323, and there is much we do not know about them. Their name depends on how they were discovered, at the optical gravitational lining experiment at Las Campana’s observatory in Chile. The first can be anywhere from the size of Jupiter to the size of 20 Jupiter, while the latter is between the size of the Earth and the Neptune. Nothing is known about how far they are from the solar system.
Researchers hope that Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched April 16, will give exoplanet and rogue planet hunters a new advantage when learning more about the mysterious bodies that obviously surround the solar system.