A new study by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) suggests planets that wander through space may be much more common than previously believed. Most of the over 700 exoplanets found to date orbit around a star, but the KIPAC research suggests the Milky Way may be home to 100,000 more of these wandering planets than stars!
If this is the case, these intriguing cosmic bodies would belong to a whole new class of alien worlds, shaking up existing theories of planet formation. These free-flying planets may also raise new and tantalizing questions in the search for life beyond Earth.
"If any of these nomad planets are big enough to have a thick atmosphere, they could have trapped enough heat for bacterial life to exist," study leader Louis Strigari said in a statement.
And while nomad planets cannot benefit from the heat given off from their parent stars, these worlds could generate heat from tectonic activity or internal radioactive decay, the researchers said.