A team of astronomers, using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) has discovered as many as 70 planets hurtling through the universe. In a new report, the ESO revealed that this is the largest group of rogue planets ever discovered and called the development an 'important step' towards understanding the origins of these starless cosmic 'nomads'. The discovery is also significant as all of the entities are 'rogue' planets, meaning they do not orbit any star and roam freely on their own, which makes their discovery fairly difficult.
Astronomers have used ESO telescopes to detect at least 70 rogue planets in our Milky Way, the largest group to date. #ESOCastLight #BiteSizedAstronomy #4K #UHD— ESO (@ESO) December 22, 2021
🔗 https://t.co/ykPDeKV89e pic.twitter.com/sQv5PllYvf
Núria Miret-Roig, an astronomer at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux and the lead researcher said as per an ESO statement, "We did not know how many to expect and are excited to have found so many". As mentioned above, locating these 'rogue' planets is extremely difficult as they are not illuminated by a star, however, the scientists were still able to find the new chunk. According to the ESO, the team of scientists took advantage of the fact that these planets remained hot even millions of years after their formation, a quality that made them detectable by sensitive cameras on large telescopes. The discovered planets have masses comparable to Jupiter’s and are located within the Scorpius and Ophiuchus constellations, the scientists noted in their study published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The experts' team reportedly used two decades' worth of data collected by the telescopes in space and on the ground. Explaining the discovery process, Miret-Roig said as per ESO-
We measured the tiny motions, the colours and luminosities of tens of millions of sources in a large area of the sky. These measurements allowed us to securely identify the faintest objects in this region, the rogue planets.
Moreover, the study suggests that scientists may find even many more of these elusive, starless planets, and if the new research's project leader Hervé Bouy is to be believed, there could be billions of such 'rogue' planets floating in our Milky Way galaxy. As for their formation, astronomers believe that such starless planets form after a gas cloud, which is too small to turn into a star, collapses. Another theory suggests that these planets might come into existence after being kicked out from their parent system.