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It’s pretty common for us to see the world as it is. There are planets in our solar system that circle around the sun. However, it is possible for planets to live on their own. 

Rogue planets are elusive cosmic objects that have masses but do not orbit a star, instead roaming freely on their own. Not many were known until now, but a team of astronomers, using data from several European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes and other facilities, have just discovered at least 70 new rogue planets in our galaxy. This is the largest group of rogue planets ever discovered, an important step towards understanding the origins and features of these mysterious galactic nomads.

This image shows the locations of 115 potential rogue planets, highlighted with red circles

Rogue planets have masses comparable to those of the planets in our Solar System, but do not orbit a star and instead roam freely on their own. The exact number of rogue planets found by the team is between 70 and 170, depending on the age assumed for the study region. This image was created assuming an intermediate age, resulting in a number of planet candidates in between the two extremes of the study.

These planets are located within the Scorpius and Ophiuchus constellations. It’s quite a challenge to find such planets as they have no stars illuminating them. However, with data compiled over 20 years from European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes, the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, and more, Núria Miret-Roig, an astronomer at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux, France and the University of Vienna, Austria, and her team were able to capture faint heat signatures emitted from planets that formed within the last several million years.

However, Miret-Roig and her team took advantage of the fact that, in the few million years after their formation, these planets are still hot enough to glow, making them directly detectable by sensitive cameras on large telescopes.

Hervé Bouy mentioned in a press release that the amount of such space objects roaming freely in the Milky Way without a host star can be bigger. 

Scientists believe there are two variants on how these mysterious objects form: rogue planets can form from the collapse of a gas cloud that is too small to lead to the formation of a star, or that they could have been kicked out from their parent system. 

Astronomers are currently awaiting completion of ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), a giant observatory that will play a “crucial” part in finding further information about rogue planets, according to Bouy. The ELT is set to begin observations at the end of the decade.

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