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Free-floating planets may be born free; 200 billion starless planets roam Milky Way

Jonathan Marker | Science Recorder | August 21, 2013

Free-floating planets may be born free; 200 billion starless planets roam Milky Way

In previous research endeavors, astronomers calculated that as many as 200 billion free-floating planets exist in the Milky Way galaxy.

Following analysis of new observations made by a team of Swedish and Finnish astronomers with telescopes from Chalmers University of Technology, the researchers discovered that tiny, dark, and round clouds in space are ideal incubators for planet formation.  The astronomers observed the Rosette Nebula, a gigantic cloud of dust and gas some 4,600 light years from earth in the Unicorn constellation, using the 20-meter telescope at Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden; APEX in Chile; and with the New Technology Telescope (NTT) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.

In previous research endeavors, astronomers calculated that as many as 200 billion free-floating planets exist in the Milky Way galaxy.  Until now, astronomers believed that these types of planets – which do not have a parent star – resulted from ejection from an existing solar system.  Additionally, this new research into the tiny dark clouds reveals the possibility that a portion of the free-floating planets formed on their own.

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