November 15, 2019

Scientists say the Milky Way is filled with billions of ‘rogue planets’ – but could one of these free-floating worlds hit Earth?


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By Jasper Hamill From Metro News UK

Humanity shares its home galaxy with vast numbers of free-floating ‘rogue planets’ which have broken free of their own star systems and set off on a lonely journey through the void, scientists have claimed.

A number of papers published in recent years have attempted to predict whether runaway worlds are rare or very commonplace, with one study claiming there could be as many rogue planets in the Milky Way as there are stars.

Our galaxy is made up of more than 100 billion stars, meaning there could be an awful lot of homeless planets out there in space.

Although it’s highly unlikely, there is a very small chance one of the planets could hit Earth and wipe out our species along with every other living being.

Astronomy researcher  has just published an article which discusses all the evidence scientists have gathered about rogue planets.

He wrote: ‘A 2011 paper made the case that… there could be as many rogue planets in the Milky Way as there are stars. ‘Louis Strigari from has likewise estimated high numbers of rogue planets ranging from Ceres-size on up to gas giants.’

Gilster also cited research which showed that it is extremely difficult for an object to break free of its star’s gravitational pull, which could mean rogue planets are very uncommon.

‘On the subject of rogue planets in this or any galaxy, what we still don’t know vastly outweighs what we do,’ he added.

Here’s how Nasa described free-floating worlds: ‘Wandering alone in the galaxy, they do not orbit a parent star. Not much is known about how these planets come to exist, but scientists theorize that they may be either failed stars or planets ejected from very young systems after an encounter with another planet.

‘These rogue planets glow faintly from the heat of their formation. Once they cool down, they will be dancing in the dark.’

If Nasa spotted a rogue planet headed towards our own world, there is very little we could do but brace for impact and watch helplessly as the killer planet approaches.

However, space is a very big place so it’s highly unlikely that a rogue planet would ever be seen in our solar system, let alone wallop into our world and smash it into tiny pieces.

Earlier this year, astronomers saw a huge rogue world thought to be a dozen times bigger than the gas giant Jupiter, which is the largest planet in our solar system.


Artist’s impression of the rogue world SIMP J013656.5+093347, which was found in 2018

A rogue planet would destroy Earth if there was a head-on collision (Photo: Getty)

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