‘Nomad Planets’ May Litter the Milky Way
“Nomad planets” may litter the Milky Way, according to a new study by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC). “Nomad planets” are special because they do not orbit a star like Earth, but wander through space without a home. There may be as many as 100,000 times more “nomad planets” in the Milky Way than there are stars.
The researchers who conducted the study believe that the observation of “nomad planets” will probably impact how planet formation is understood. “If any of these nomad planets are big enough to have a thick atmosphere, they could have trapped enough heat for bacterial life to exist,” said Louis Strigari, the leader of the research team. “Nomad planets” may create enough heat through internal radioactive decay and tectonic activity to support bacterial life.
Although the discovery of planets that orbit stars is nothing new to the scientific community (500 planets outside our solar system have been found over the past 20 years), the unearthing of more “nomad planets” is still a cause for celebration. A Stanford University press release reveals that astronomers found approximately 12 “nomad planets” in 2011.
In 2011, TIME reported on the discovery of 10 rogue planets (another term for “nomad planets”). In the article, TIME said that “nomad planets” might have become homeless after extremely close gravitational encounters with other planets.