Astronomers using the Kepler telescope have discovered a population of free-floating planets.
The research team has detected 27 transient signals that potentially indicate free-floating planets. Many of these objects have been previously seen on other sightings. Four of these planets have a mass close to that of the Earth.
Perhaps such planets initially formed around the host star, and after that they were literally squeezed out by other gravitational pulls of heavier planets in the system.
The study, led by Ian MacDonald of the University of Manchester, used data from 2016 during the K2 phase of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. During this two-month campaign, Kepler tracked a field of millions of stars near the center of our galaxy every 30 minutes to detect rare gravitational microlensing events.
These new events were not accompanied by the long beep that one would expect from a host star, so scientists have concluded that these planets have no stars.