Researchers Say Milky Way Swarming With Nomad Planets

Posted on February 26, 2012

Nomad Planet

Numerous nomad planets are wandering around the Milky Way say researchers from the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), a joint institute of Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The KIPAC researchers estimate there may be 100,000 times more nomad planets in our galaxy than stars. The researchers also say some of the planets could support bacterial life due to the heat generated through internal radioactive decay and tectonic activity.

Louis Strigari, leader of the team that reported the result in a paper submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, says, "If any of these nomad planets are big enough to have a thick atmosphere, they could have trapped enough heat for bacterial life to exist."

Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science, author of The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets, says, "To paraphrase Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, if correct, this extrapolation implies that we are not in Kansas anymore, and in fact we never were in Kansas. The universe is riddled with unseen planetary-mass objects that we are just now able to detect."

The artistic rendering of a nomad planet above was made intentionally blurry to represent uncertainty about whether or not the planet has an atmosphere.

Photo: Greg Stewart / SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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