Maunakea Observatories help scientists discover largest collection of ‘rogue planets’ in the Milky Way

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An artist’s rendering of the largest known collection of “rogue planets” in the Milky Way. (Courtesy: COSMIC-DANCE Team/CFHT/Coelum/Gaia/DPAC)

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The largest collection of “rogue planets” was recently discovered in the Milky Way using data from telescopes around the world, including a suite of wide fielding imaging cameras at the Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope, part of the Mauna Kea Observatories.

Researchers said at least 70, but possibly as many as 170, rogue planets have been found. Rogue planets, also known as free-floating planets, don’t orbit a star in the way that Earth orbits the Sun. This makes them incredibly difficult to spot.

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A team of scientists was able to find the planets after reviewing 80,000 images that were captured over the span of 20 years using multiple Maunakea Observatories.

“We measured the tiny motions, the colors and luminosities of tens of millions of sources in a large area of the sky,” said Dr. Nuria Miret-Roig, who led the team. “These measurements allowed us to securely identify the faintest objects in this region, the rogue planets.”

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Astronomers believe that studying the newly discovered rogue planets is an important step toward understanding the origins and features of these mysterious forms.

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