24/7 Space News
EXO WORLDS
New study reveals Roman Telescope could find 400 Earth-mass rogue planets
Previous best estimates, based on planets found orbiting stars, suggested Roman would spot 50 terrestrial-mass rogue worlds. These new results suggest it could actually find about 400, though we'll have to wait until Roman begins scanning the skies to make more certain predictions. Scientists will couple Roman's future data with ground-based observations from facilities such as Japan's PRIME telescope, located at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland. This 1.8-meter telescope will build on MOA's work by conducting the first wide-area microlensing survey in near-infrared light. It's equipped with four detectors from Roman's detector development program, contributed by NASA as part of an international agreement with JAXA.
ADVERTISEMENT
New study reveals Roman Telescope could find 400 Earth-mass rogue planets
by Ashley Balzer for GSFC News
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jul 20, 2023

New research by scientists from NASA and Japan's Osaka University suggests that rogue planets - worlds that drift through space untethered to a star - far outnumber planets that orbit stars. The results imply that NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, set to launch by May 2027, could find a staggering 400 Earth-mass rogue worlds. Indeed, this new study has already identified one such candidate.

"We estimate that our galaxy is home to 20 times more rogue planets than stars - trillions of worlds wandering alone," said David Bennett, a senior research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and a co-author of two papers describing the results. "This is the first measurement of the number of rogue planets in the galaxy that is sensitive to planets less massive than Earth."

The team's findings stem from a nine-year survey called MOA (Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics), conducted at the Mount John University Observatory in New Zealand. Microlensing events occur when an object such as a star or planet comes into near-perfect alignment with an unrelated background star from our vantage point. Because anything with mass warps the fabric of space-time, light from the distant star bends around the nearer object as it passes close by. The nearer object acts as a natural lens, creating a brief spike in the brightness of the background star's light that gives astronomers clues about the intervening object that they can't get any other way.

"Microlensing is the only way we can find objects like low-mass free-floating planets and even primordial black holes," said Takahiro Sumi, a professor at Osaka University, and lead author of the paper with a new estimate of our galaxy's rogue planets. "It's very exciting to use gravity to discover objects we could never hope to see directly."

The roughly Earth-mass rogue planet the team found marks the second discovery of its kind. The paper describing the finding will appear in a future issue of The Astronomical Journal. A second paper, which presents a demographic analysis that concludes that rogue planets are six times more abundant than worlds that orbit stars in our galaxy, will be published in the same journal.

Pint-Sized Planets
In only a few decades, we've gone from wondering whether the worlds in our solar system are alone in the cosmos to discovering more than 5,300 planets outside our solar system. The vast majority of these newfound worlds are either huge, extremely close to their host star, or both. By contrast, the team's results suggest that rogue planets tend to be on the petite side.

"We found that Earth-size rogues are more common than more massive ones," Sumi said. "The difference in star-bound and free-floating planets' average masses holds a key to understanding planetary formation mechanisms."

World-building can be chaotic, with all of the forming celestial bodies gravitationally interacting as they settle into their orbits. Planetary lightweights aren't tethered as strongly to their star, so some of these interactions end up flinging such worlds off into space. So begins a solitary existence, hidden amongst the shadows between stars.

In one of the early episodes of the original Star Trek series, the crew encounters one such lone planet amid a so-called star desert. They were surprised to ultimately find Gothos, the starless planet, habitable. While such a world may be plausible, the team emphasizes that the newly detected "rogue Earth" probably doesn't share many other characteristics with Earth beyond a similar mass.

Roman's Hunt for Hidden Worlds
Microlensing events that reveal solitary planets are extraordinarily rare, so one key to finding more is to cast a wider net. That's just what Roman will do when it launches by May 2027.

"Roman will be sensitive to even lower-mass rogue planets since it will observe from space," said Naoki Koshimoto, who led the paper announcing the detection of a candidate terrestrial-mass rogue world. Now an assistant professor at Osaka University, he conducted this research at Goddard. "The combination of Roman's wide view and sharp vision will allow us to study the objects it finds in more detail than we can do using only ground-based telescopes, which is a thrilling prospect."

Previous best estimates, based on planets found orbiting stars, suggested Roman would spot 50 terrestrial-mass rogue worlds. These new results suggest it could actually find about 400, though we'll have to wait until Roman begins scanning the skies to make more certain predictions. Scientists will couple Roman's future data with ground-based observations from facilities such as Japan's PRIME (Prime-focus Infrared Microlensing Experiment) telescope, located at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland. This 1.8-meter telescope will build on MOA's work by conducting the first wide-area microlensing survey in near-infrared light. It's equipped with four detectors from Roman's detector development program, contributed by NASA as part of an international agreement with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).

Each microlensing event is a one-time occurrence, meaning astronomers can't go back and repeat the observations once they're over. But they're not instantaneous.

"A microlensing signal from a rogue planet can take from a few hours up to about a day, so astronomers will have a chance to do simultaneous observations with Roman and PRIME," Koshimoto said.

Seeing them from both Earth and Roman's location a million miles away will help scientists measure the masses of rogue planets much more accurately than ever before, deepening our understanding of the worlds that grace our galaxy.

Related Links
Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

RELATED CONTENT
The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
EXO WORLDS
Does this exoplanet have a sibling sharing the same orbit
Munich, Germany (SPX) Jul 20, 2023
Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have found the possible 'sibling' of a planet orbiting a distant star. The team has detected a cloud of debris that might be sharing this planet's orbit and which, they believe, could be the building blocks of a new planet or the remnants of one already formed. If confirmed, this discovery would be the strongest evidence yet that two exoplanets can share one orbit. "Two decades ago it was predicted in theory that pairs of p ... read more

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
EXO WORLDS
In new space race, scientists propose geoarchaeology can aid in preserving space heritage

Geophysics student employs 800-year-old method for Lunar GPS system

NASA's Bill Nelson to discuss bilateral cooperation in South America

On space, poll shows most Americans support NASA's role, U.S. presence

EXO WORLDS
Kuaizhou 1A launches satellites into orbit

AROBS Engineering Takes Lead Role in Space Rider Project Software Verification and Validation

Rocket Lab set to boost Capella's satellite constellation with upcoming launch

World's first methane-fueled rocket makes history, courtesy of LandSpace and GCL

EXO WORLDS
Senate expresses 'significant concerns' over NASA's Mars sample-retrieval plan

Sleeping the Sol Away: Sol 3894

Unveiling Mars' Past: Olympus Mons as a Gigantic Volcanic Isle

Perseverance sees Mars in a new light

EXO WORLDS
China's Space Station Opens Doors to Global Scientific Community

China's Lunar Mission targets manned landing by 2030

Shenzhou XVI crew set to conduct their first EVA

Timeline unveiled for China's advanced manned spacecraft's inaugural flight

EXO WORLDS
From AI to Nuclear: UK launches Strategic Plan for Future Space Exploration

New Heights for Satellite Communication: Iridium Launches Certus for Aviation

Future of Satellite Internet: OneWeb vs Starlink

Successful entry into service of the multi-mission EUTELSAT 10B satellite

EXO WORLDS
Boeing's Millennium Space Systems amplifies small satellite production

Optimum Technologies unveils innovative spacecraft facility in Northern Virginia

Revolutionary materials and techniques transform aircraft construction

Billions of nanoplastics released when microwaving baby food containers

EXO WORLDS
NASA lab hopes to find life's building blocks in asteroid sample

New study reveals Roman Telescope could find 400 Earth-mass rogue planets

Does this exoplanet have a sibling sharing the same orbit

PSI's David Grinspoon Appointed to New NASA Post

EXO WORLDS
SwRI team identifies giant swirling waves at the edge of Jupiter's magnetosphere

First ultraviolet data collected by ESA's JUICE mission

Unveiling Jupiter's upper atmosphere

ASU study: Jupiter's moon Europa may have had a slow evolution

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


ADVERTISEMENT



The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.