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back to article Interstellar space 'full of Jupiter-size orphan planets'

A team of astronomers has identified a novel new kind of galactic wanderer - lone, Jupiter-sized planets expelled from forming solar systems and drifting in the empty void between the stars. The researchers, led by Takahiro Sumi of Japan's Osaka University, spotted 10 such free-floating "orphan planets" in data from a 2006-7 …

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Doesn't seem new to me

I remember going to lectures on this some years ago.

Perhaps it's bad translation but his statement should read:

"The existence of free-floating planets has been predicted by planetary formation theory, but nobody knows how many there are."

because we still don't know how many there are, he only spotted a few. The hunt for "dark matter" is still on and according to some lectures I went to the lack of "dark matter" has lead to the theory predicting it being questioned.

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Anonymous Coward

Never heard of the cosmological principle?

They've used a small sample (because it requires unlikely and therefore rare circumstances to detect them) and statistical projection to arrive at a ballpark figure. That is a scientifically valid approach to determining how many there are.

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If you find dark matter does it stop being dark matter?

The whole point of dark matter is that it's, well... dark. It's usually cold, too. That is it's not reflecting or emitting any radiation. It's thus not easy to spot.

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Silver badge

reminds me of a line on the subject of black holes from Red Dwarf....

"Well, the thing about a black hole - its main distinguishing feature - is it's black. And the thing about space, the colour of space, your basic space colour, is black. So how are you supposed to see them?"

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E 2

Yes

I think it would stop being dark matter.

Another thing... if weakly interacting massive particle essentially do not respond to electromagnetism but do respond to gravity, then what stops all the dark matter in the the galactic halo from collapsing under gravity to the center of the galaxy?

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So

I can see two monitors in front of me so therefore there are monitors everwhere? Hmmm you may want to reconsider that!

According to what I read there hasn't been enough of these kind of objects found to stamp "problem solved" on the issue. In fact quite the opposite.

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Alien

Place: Deep space

Drifting Jupiter-sized planet.

Music: They call me the wanderer yeah the wanderer. I roam around around around...

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Unhappy

Armageddon?

These look too big for Bruce Willis to deflect if one floats our way.

Oh the humanity!

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Coat

Dear science...

Please find one that's sea-cow shaped, I've been dying to use the phrase "Oh the huge manatee!"

Yes yes I'm going, mine's the one with the impossibly shaped gas giant in the pocket.

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MrT
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Space 1999...

...Moonbase Alpha on the way.

Shame we can't ask the deep space probes to do much reporting these days.

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Happy

I'm more hopeful...

that the Star Maidens will turn up!

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Boffin

If those rogue planets have moons...

Then "Independence Day" scenarios might come true after all. Not good for Randy Quaid, but...

Seriously, it would be a nice way for intergalactic travelers to move between star systems.

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Coat

You mean...

..."Thats no moon^h^h^h^hwandering rogue planet, thats a space-station".

(Mine's the brown robe, with a lightsabre in the pocket)

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Boffin

Science Win (Again)

Also, doesnt this imply it is what "dark matter" is - as the wandering planets will have mass but not be visible?

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Anonymous Coward

dark matter !== missing mass

dark matter is not 'dark' simply because we cant see it, (say because it happens to be out in deep space and not near anything shiny like a sun)., it is 'dark' because it is not see-able. ie it does not emit or reflect electromagnetic radiation.

the planets in the article have been "expelled from forming solar systems" and are adrift between stars, making them merely hard to see. but if you shine a torch on one of these planets you will see it. if you shine a torch on dark matter you wont.

the mass of these planets may well account for some of the 'missing mass' that is needed to make the edges of galaxies rotate at the speed they do, but these planets are not made of dark matter.

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E 2

Nope

Dark matter is just dark and hard to see. The boffins came up with WIMPs and such because they couldn't find enough baryonic matter. But now maybe this guy has found a big pile of previously unknown baryonic matter. Whether he has found enough remains to be seen.

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Boffin

Even if their number was 100 times the number of stars

it would not be sufficient to make up the gap between directly observed mass and the mass apparent from gravitational pull of galaxies. This is because Jupiter-sized planets are only a fraction of the mass of a star, and there is a huge amount of missing mass (only 6% is observable, might become 12% with the lone planets, but still 88% missing). On the other hand, our model of gravity may be wrong.

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Paris Hilton

Poor little lost planets

Could this help account for some of the "missing" mass out there? Maybe we can get over this last 20 years of dark matter lunacy?

Paris, because sometimes she's just spaced out.

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Anonymous Coward

Hardly

Jupiter is less than 0.1% the mass of the Sun. A couple of these per star is several orders of magnitude less mass than required to make up the missing mass. When your grasp of such basic facts is so weak perhaps you shouldn't be labeling as lunacy the views of the experts that spend their whole career studying the area.

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Unhappy

Re: Poor little lost planets

Er, no. The problem here is that even after you take into consideration the mass of all the Galaxies in the Universe (which, by definition, includes any loose planets wandering about in them), we're still a shedload short.

I believe that you'd have to postulate that were more planets wandering around untethered in intergalactic space than there are in Galaxies for that to be a runner. IIRC, that would put something of a nasty dent in the Standard Model.

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@Katie Saucey

"Could this help account for some of the "missing" mass out there? Maybe we can get over this last 20 years of dark matter lunacy?"

Wouldn't even scratch the surface - dark matter is around 80% of the observable universe. So you'd need to billions of these planets for each star out there, given the size of planets.

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Alien

nice for mining

These are probably lifeless and should make for some nice resources of minerals and such.. sometime in the future of course..

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Happy

Depending on how interstellar travel shakes out

These could act as convenient petrol stations for refueling.

May be out of luck if you want to pop in and grab a bag of crisps, of course.

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Happy

Poul Anderson would be pleased.

That puts "Satan's World" firmly into the realm of possibility.

When I need my coat, it's the flight jacket with the "Solar Spice and Liquors" patch on the sleeve.

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Pint

Poul Anderson proud

No doubt you'd also have a barrel of stout to tap on your voyages between the stars, and some hair pomade as well, Mr. van Rijn?

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Anonymous Coward

News?

A Jupiter size planet is a star that didn't get enough matter to "switch on", so isn't it awfully expected? Heck, there's probably some cooled down red dwarves among them as well. And all these probably have smaller satelites planets as well. First to say it, PM me so I can give you the address where to send my PhD certificate. Kthx.

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Boffin

Brown dwarf is what you are looking for

Stars form differently from planets, and Jupiter is less than 10% of the mass needed to even become a brown dwarf. At 13 Jupiter masses, some deuterium fusion can take place, but about 75-80 Jupiter masses are need to become a main sequence star.

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If we do get as far as faster than light travel

With this information that the space between stars is as messed up as a teenager's bedroom, then interstellar travellers may well need some frikkin' awsome windscreen wipers on their craft.

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Black Helicopters

more likely....

...the future human interstellar travelers risk becoming bug splats on some giant planetary windscreen

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Anonymous Coward

Vroom vroom

The only way for mass to travel beyond (or at?) the speed of light is interdimensionally... so whatever resides in our visible universe could not be collided with while whizzing around superluminally.

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@Cihatari

And you'll want to be especially aware of any antimatter Jupiters (see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/19/alpha_magnetic_spectrometer/) crossing your path (or you crossing theirs). Frikkin' awesome wipers aren't quite going to cut it then.

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Pint

Extraploation with a holistic view

"...several orders of magnitude less mass than required to make up the missing mass."

If they can just-now, just-barely detect just-some of just-the-biggest-ones (using gravitatinal lensing), then how many undetectable smaller ones must there be?

Assume some reasonable distibution (fewer biggies, vastly more smallies, all the way down to atoms...), then perhaps we can get within an order of magnitude or so of the 'missing' (now partially found?) Dark Matter.

My guess? They just found 32.75% of the Dark Matter. Worth celebrating.

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Anonymous Coward

Isn't interstellar space a bit cold?

If these planets were gas giants and became disconnected from a host star wouldn't they cool down and reduce in volume. If they remained hot due to spinning or some other reason would they be 'visible'. How different in power output and temperature spectrum would they be and would this make them easier to detect than by using light being bent around them.....

What have I missed here?

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PT

@What have I missed here

Er, that nowhere in the article does it say they are gas giants, or indeed, anything-giants. The only available data so far is that they have mass of the same order as a known gas giant, but that doesn't necessarily imply that they have similar size. They could be microscopic fragments of collapsed matter.

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Pint

Fine, I'm going into purdah

And I'm not coming out until all the pictures of Jupiter with "Forever Alone" 'shopped onto it have disappeared beneath the steady flow of cats dancing with octopi, moonwalking stick insects, and orange reality-show celebs.

I need a drink. Several large ones in fact. Hold the parmo.

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Oh good

As if interstellar travel wasn't going to be a big enough challenge anyway there's the added risk of getting hit in the face by a planet.

I bet they're not even insured.

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Alien

Arblus, look! It's Unicron!

Get to the ships, it's our only chaaaaaance!!

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Anonymous Coward

Nessus

Looks like the Core has gone "phoom" then. Expect large numbers of Pak arriving soon.

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Happy

The old rogue planet used to be favorite of space opera

But it always looked a *very* long shot IRL.

Think about it.

a) A formed planet (and a *big* one) has to be given enough force to reach solar escape velocity.Note it's *very* unlikely that a planet would be able to form on its own.

b) it forms in deep space on its *own*.with a bit of velocity to get it moving.

Neither of these really sounds very plausible.

So superficially this should be *very* unlikely and yet it's happening.

Either the common public view of how planets form is a *major* mis representation of how things work or the current model needs some *serious* rethinking.

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Silver badge

I'd go with option 'a'

In the case of a binary or multiple star system I'd expect planets to end up following some non-stable orbital paths. Some might send the planet hurtling into one of the stars, others might throw them free of the system if the can gain enough momentum from close flybys.

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Try playing with a gravity simulator

The difficult thing is to create a system in which something doesn't get ejected.

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Are we sure these things are completely independant of stars?

Given the detection method and how long we've been watching them I assume there is no velocity data. Can we say for sure they're on there own? Or could some be in very long, very eccentric eliptical orbits around their parent star. Such a body might fit well with the 'dark companion' nemesis theory of mass extinctions. Even without them being in orbit how often would we expect one to wander close enough for interesting effects?

Presumably ones that escaped a low mass star might eventually be captured by a higher mass star? A possible explanation for any planets found in a 'backwards' orbit?

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No surprise, but what about wandering stars ?

Every collision between galaxies breaks their rotational forms, so the matter goes anywhere.

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Expelled from forming solar systems

Out, and never darken my solar system again!

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Drifting?

Are they drifting or are their turtles swimming on deliberate courses?

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Anonymous Coward

i bet Lee knows

Surely i can't be the first to say this.

Altogether now, join in ....

"Do I know where hell is, hell is in hello

Heaven is goodbye forever, its time for me to go"

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Two thoughts

1. The Ancient Greeks were more right than they knew: Planet = "Wandering Star" indeed.

2. @John Smith: I favor the idea of an external force breaking a planet free of its star. Such as a rogue planet. Which would make the rogue planet generation mechanism resemble a nuclear fission reaction: split up one atom, let loose three extra neutrons that go and burst other atoms, freeing more neutrons, etc. Soon the universe will be uniformly filled with rogue planets, including our own.

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Silver badge

We have been here for some 4,500,000,000 years

so I think there is no need to panic

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Boffin

@Michael H.F. Wilkinson

Define "we", and define "here"

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xyz

Thank God no one's mentioned Niburu...

Oh ugger I just did

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