Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
· Animation – rogue planet against galaxy background: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (Caltech-IPAC)
· Illustration - rogue planet against galaxy background: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (Caltech-IPAC)
· Animated gif illustrating gravitational microlensing: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
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Images of colorful nebulas, planets, and stars pass by. Text, News from the Universe.
A dark sphere approaches in front of a long vertical line of glowing clouds and stars in space. Text, July 20, 2023. Rogue Planets. New research indicates that rogue planets, floating alone through space, could far outnumber planets that orbit stars.
The results come from a nine-year survey conducted at the Mount John University Observatory in New Zealand. An animation illustrates the process, with a graph showing a spike in brightness as the planet passes in front of the distant star.
Rogue planets are detected via gravitational microlensing. When a planet passes in front of a distant star, its space-warping gravity acts like a lens, bending the star's light around it and briefly brightening the star.
The results imply that NASA's upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope could detect 400 Earth-mass rogue worlds, eight times more than previously estimated.
This news was brought to you in part by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.