Bizarre, Earth-sized rogue planet found floating in Milky Way

Image University of Warsaw

According to the US and Polish astronomers, the planet is rogue which means that it is floating in Milky Way and is not attached to any star.

Our Galaxy may be teeming with rogue planets, gravitationally unbound to any star.

Rogue planets are ones that drift in space without a parent star that they orbit around. In one New study, The same astronomers have found the smallest such planet ever.

Exoplanets can be only rarely directly observed.

Exoplanets are hard to find, usually just by looking at the light from their host stars.

Mroz says that this rogue planet may be sized somewhere between Mars and Earth, with the former possibility favoured by the Gaia proper motion measurement of the source.

Astronomers believe that free-floating or "lonely" planets originally formed around stars in the same way as "normal" planets do, but were then ejected from their parent planetary systems after gravitational interactions with other planets in the system. "They don't emit any visible radiation, so they can not be detected using traditional astrophysical techniques", he explains.

An artist's idea of the gravitational microlensing phenomenon of a free-floating planet.

Microlensing comes from Einstein's theory of general relativity - a massive object (the lens) may bend the light of a bright background object (the source). The lens's gravity acts as a huge magnifying glass that bends and magnifies distant stars' light.

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"If we were looking at only one source star, on average we would have to wait nearly a million years to observe microlensing". Now using a telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, astronomers look at the center of the galaxy in the clear night in search of changes in the brightness of the stars.

"When we first spotted this event, it was clear that it must have been caused by an extremely tiny object", said co-author Dr. Radoslaw Poleski from the Astronomical Observatory of the University of Warsaw.

Researchers were able to determine that the lensing object was likely less massive than Earth and about the same size as Mars.

Experts use light coming from a star to detect the various exoplanets.

He said, "We can rule out the planet having a star within about eight astronomical units". Set to dispatch in 2025, the telescope will "investigate long-standing astronomical mysteries, such as the force behind the universe's expansion, and search for distant planets beyond our solar system", as indicated by NASA.

In a press release, researchers mentioned it's additional proof that "ground-based" telescopes might be used within the seek for wayward exoplanets - a examine for which NASA has devoted their new Nancy Grace Roman Area Telescope. Studying these free-floating planets can help astronomers better understand the volatile history of young planetary systems - including our own solar system.

He added: "The size of the gravitational microlenses caused by stars is usually much larger than the size of the source star".

The newly-detected microlensing event, designated OGLE-2016-BLG-1928, lasted only 41.5 minutes.

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