Astronomers, including a NASA-funded team member, have discovered a new class of Jupiter-sized planets floating alone in the dark of space , away from the light of a star. The team believes these lone worlds were probably ejected from developing planetary systems.
The discovery indicates there are many more free-floating Jupiter-mass planets that can't be seen. The team estimates there are about twice as many of them as stars. In addition, these worlds are thought to be at least as common as planets that orbit stars. This would add up to hundreds of billions of lone planets in our Milky Way galaxy alone.
The study, led by Takahiro Sumi from Osaka University in Japan, appears in the May 19 issue of the journal Nature.
The survey is not sensitive to planets smaller than Jupiter and Saturn, but theories suggest lower-mass planets like Earth should be ejected from their stars more often. As a result, they are thought to be more common than free-floating Jupiters.
"Our results suggest that planetary systems often become unstable, with planets being kicked out from their places of birth."
I am now going to depart from the Internet to write about ten million words of science fiction.
Ken Layne has already connected it to that French Dominatrix guy, bin Laden, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, and, oh yeah, the end of the world, on Saturday. Also.