Astronomers have found that tiny, round, dark clouds called globulettes have the right characteristics to form free-floating planets. The graph shows the spectrum of one of the globulettes taken at the 20-metre telescope at Onsala Space Observatory. Radio waves from molecules of carbon monoxide (13CO) give information on the mass and structure of these clouds.
Previous research has shown that there may be as many as 200 billion free-floating planets in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Until now scientists have believed that such “rogue planets”, which don’t orbit around a star, must have been ejected from existing planetary systems. New observations of tiny dark clouds in space point out another possibility: that some free-floating planets formed on their own.
More information: dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201321547
Credit: ESO/M. Mäkelä