Scientists used gravitational lensing to detect a so-called “rogue” planet that does not orbit stars and floats freely in space,media BGR reported. The planet is small, but researchers can’t be sure how far it is from Earth. The Milky Way could be trillions of such free planets.
Scientists describe the new discovery of such a rogue planet in a research paper. The planet was discovered by two teams, OGLE (Korean Micro-Lens Telescope Optical Gravity Lens Experiment) and KMTN (Korea Micro-Lens Telescope Network). What’s the only problem? No one really knows how far this mysterious planet is.
The planet was discovered with the help of a technique called gravitational lensing. Gravity is used in everything, including light, and scientists have been able to use distant light sources and objects between it and Earth as an invisible magnifying glass. In this case, the mysterious “rogue” planet acts as a lens, revealing the light “behind” and allowing scientists to discover its existence. Because the planet in this particular case is relatively small and may have a mass smaller than Earth, it is considered a micro-lens event.
Micro-lensing simply means that because the object is so small, the time to observe it is precious when it produces gravitational lensing effects. This means that it is impossible to determine the specifics of the planet, including its distance from Earth. The researchers reported that it was only visible for more than 40 minutes.
The researchers believe that planets about the same mass as Earth or smaller may occasionally be thrown out of planetary systems early in their development. In the early days of those systems, planets could interact and “pull” each other, allowing them to travel dangerously around host stars, eventually causing the planets to drift freely into space. In the Milky Way alone, there may be trillions of free-floating “rogue” planets, and without star orbiting, they are likely to be fairly cool and unencable.