From: Geoff Blackmore <geoff_184.nul> Date: Fri, 20 May 2011 16:24:05 +1200 Archived: Sat, 21 May 2011 07:23:52 -0400 Subject: Kiwi-Led Team Find Lonely Planets Source: Stuff.Co.Nz http://tinyurl.com/3esbj3o 19/05/2011 Kiwi-Led Team Find Lonely Planets By Kiran Chug Lonely Jupiter-sized planets, floating freely through our galaxy instead of orbiting stars, have been discovered by a Kiwi-led international team of scientists. The discovery has been heralded in an international journal as having "profound" implications and opening a new chapter in the history of the Milky Way. Orphan planets have been the subject of science fiction, appearing in Star Wars and Doctor Who, but although theorists have speculated on their existence, this is the first time their existence has been demonstrated. The findings, published today in the international scientific journal Nature, were made using software developed by Massey University computer scientist and astrophysicist Ian Bond. He led the team that discovered 10 giant free-floating gas planets believed not to be orbiting stars. "They're giant planets in our galaxy, around the size of Jupiter and somewhere between us and those distant background stars." The planets are believed to be about two-thirds of the way to the centre of the galaxy, which is about 25,000 light years away. "It's a big deal. It's like finding a needle in a haystack - the sense of discovery is hugely exciting," Dr Bond said. The discovery raised the possibility that smaller, Earth-sized free-floating planets are yet to be detected and that such planets could support life. If the planets could be viewed by the naked eye, Dr Bond said they would be pitch black, as they emitted no light. The discovery has won plaudits from the international scientific community. Joachim Wambsganss, of Heidelberg University's Astronomy Research Institute, said the implications were profound and more research was needed. Dr Bond and the team behind the discovery believe the orphan planets could have been ejected from a solar system because of close gravitational encounters with other planets or stars. "Some might go into another orbit; some might get ejected out." Alternatively, they could have grown from collapsing balls of gas and dust, but without the mass to ignite their nuclear fuel and produce their own starlight. The discovery team involved researchers from Massey, Auckland, Canterbury and Victoria universities, as well as from Japan and the United States. The group is part of the Moa - microlensing observations in astrophysics - study, which uses a microlensing telescope at Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo. Gravitational microlensing is an astronomical phenomenon that allows the study of planetary bodies that emit little or no light. It refers to the bending of light that happens when a distant star gets aligned with a massive foreground object. Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast At: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/sdi/program/ These contents above are copyright of the author and UFO UpDates - Toronto. They may not be reproduced without the express permission of both parties and are intended for educational use only.
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