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'Homeless' Planets May Be Common In Our Galaxy

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the click-your-heals-together dept.

Space 181

sciencehabit writes "Our galaxy could be teeming with 'homeless' planets, wandering the cosmos far from the solar systems of their birth, astronomers have found. In a paper published online today in Nature, the researchers list 10 objects in our galaxy that are very likely to be free-floating planets. What's more, they claim that in our galaxy, free-floaters are probably so populous that they outnumber stars."

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Wonder (2)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36177914)

I wonder if any are space ships.

A new kind of space ship? (4, Interesting)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178192)

Well, while I wouldn't think they'd be "space ships" in the classical sense.

I do wonder, would this not be a viable method of extremely long term, interstellar travel?

Find a "free-floater [urbandictionary.com] " (terrible name), build a perhaps subterranean civilization, somewhat colonize this planet, impart an impulse, and go for a ride for millions of years. Given we're advanced enough to even make it to one, we might even be able to attach "weak" but sustainable engines to it, such that we can slightly control it. It wouldn't be a terraformed planet, or similar, more like a moon, which we can live on, sustainably, regardless of the vacuum of space, and lack of sun. This would then essentially be a giant, "space ship".

Interesting idea.

Re:A new kind of space ship? (1)

Whalou (721698) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178466)

You make it sound so simple!

Re:A new kind of space ship? (1)

onepoint (301486) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179216)

It sounds so simple because the idea has a lot going for it. the lack of an energy resource is the only thing, but I am thinking that a deep enough mine, might produce geo-therm heat.

Where I perceive the problem to be is the evolution of the people on the planet, we can barely keep ourselves from getting killed every 40ish years, I would love to know what would happen on this journey of 10000+ years.

As for a way to guild the direction, well these things are Jupiter size, so I would guess we would jump on one, then work on some sort of small consistent thrust that over 5000 years, MIGHT move the routing. But it looks like we would be hitchhikers just a long for the ride first.

Now how would we detect one with 200 to 400 years of advance notice so we can send up a scouting vessel to see if it works.

Re:A new kind of space ship? (2)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178528)

The issue would be one of power. Law of conservation of energy and all that. Any people living on such a rock need energy to move around talk, and go about their daily lives. That energy has to come from somewhere. In our own cases, that's easy: 99% of the energy we use traces back to the sun in some way or another (geothermal is about the only naturally harnessable source that isn't solar - nucelar fission is available to societies that can harness it).

So in the end, such a rock would be useleess as a vessel unless it had a very active internal heating source, OR plenty of nuclear material. Even with that, I'd wager it'd be mighty hard to support a population of any size for too long.

Re:A new kind of space ship? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36179142)

The issue would be one of power. Law of conservation of energy and all that. Any people living on such a rock need energy to move around talk, and go about their daily lives. That energy has to come from somewhere. In our own cases, that's easy: 99% of the energy we use traces back to the sun in some way or another (geothermal is about the only naturally harnessable source that isn't solar - nuclear fission is available to societies that behave well, or already have The Bomb).

So in the end, such a rock would be useless as a vessel unless it had a very active internal heating source, OR plenty of nuclear material. Even with that, I'd wager it'd be mighty hard to support a population of any size for too long.

There, I fixed it for you.

new space ship moon of wandering gas giant. (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179468)

suppose "planet" is large moon of homeless gas giant that is being mined for He3

All our energy is NUCLEAR (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179388)

In our own cases, that's easy: 99% of the energy we use traces back to the sun in some way or another (geothermal is about the only naturally harnessable source that isn't solar - nuclear fission is available to societies that can harness it).

In the end, all this energy comes from nuclear reactions, either fusion in the sun of fission in the interior of the earth or nuclear reactors.

Assuming an advanced enough technology, it's possible to extract nuclear energy from any atom except iron. It's reasonable to assume that a civilization advanced enough to reach an extra-solar planet would have no problem in extracting energy from it.

Re:A new kind of space ship? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36178732)

Read Fritz Lieber's "The Wanderer".
It discusses exactly this.

Re:A new kind of space ship? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36179300)

Space 1999

Re:A new kind of space ship? (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179536)

more like a moon

That's no moon!

Re:Wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36178256)

Marsoid Hologram: "We worked ourselves to extinction turning out planet into a navigable space-ship"
Zim: "why?"
Hologram: "Because it's really cool!"

Re:Wonder (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178554)

No. It's lonely out in space.

Re:Wonder (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178616)

OMG! it's a Death Star!

Sorry, had to.. :*(

Re:Wonder (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179188)

That is no moon!
Wow talk about just not a good idea. I do not think I want to find a civilization that can build planet sized space craft. Hey at least they are slow. Maybe they are Outsiders?

Dark matter? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36177930)

OK, so I've never really understood 'dark matter', but if there's a bunch of stuff floating about that's not stars and only shows up through things like gravitational micro-lensing ... might this cover some of the mass that is dark matter?

Or is this just way to insignificant to account for it?

A bunch of planets floating around in space without orbiting a star is probably a lot -- but maybe nowhere near enough to account for whatever bits of whatever equations that leads us to ponder dark matter.

Re:Dark matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36177994)

LOL WUT

Re:Dark matter? (1)

Covalent (1001277) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178030)

I thought the same thing...if the planets outnumber stars, but tend to be smaller than stars, then perhaps the mass of them is roughly equal. Not enough to account for all of the "missing mass", but certainly enough to affect the hypotheses regarding its quantity and properties.

Re:Dark matter? (3, Informative)

Delkster (820935) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178420)

Apparently it's not very significant since not only are planets smaller than stars, they are smaller by a pretty large factor.

The mass of Jupiter is about 1/1000 solar masses. Let's say the average mass of these independently floating planets is about 10 times that of Jupiter, and that the average star is about the same as our Sun or less. That would make the mass of an average planet about 1/100 of the average star, so you'd still need planets to outnumber stars by a factor of 100 just to equal the mass of stars. Wikipedia says that visible matter makes up for about 17% of the total matter of the universe [wikipedia.org] , so even if the mass of planets equaled that of stars (which, with the very very rough figures above, would mean a planet-to-star ratio of 100, or something pretty large anyway), there would still be plenty of dark matter to explain.

Re:Dark matter? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178618)

and that the average star is about the same as our Sun or less.

That's a bad assumption to make (unless by "or less" you're assuming a lot less). The vast majority of the stars in the galaxy (about 85%) are red dwarfs, which are typically 1/5th or less of the mass of the sun.

While our sun is right in the middle of the scale of possible sizes for stars, as far as frequency, it's in the upper 10% of the most massive stars.

Re:Dark matter? (1)

Delkster (820935) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179304)

You're right, but even if you reduced the mass of the average star to 1/5 in the ballpark calculation, that would still leave a 20:1 mass ratio between the average star and planet. Also, an average of 10 Jupiter masses for a planet is a somewhat generous figure if you compare it to estimated masses of planets known so far [exoplanet.eu] , and observational bias probably skews even those figures towards the larger end.

In the end, it might be a small constant factor here or there, and that wouldn't altogether remove the couple of orders of magnitude of difference. Also, not all visible matter is in stars and planets, so the ratio between total mass in planets and total visible mass in the universe would be even lower than the ratio between planets and stars (although I don't know by what kind of a factor), and since the total mass of dark matter is more than the total mass of visible matter, the proportion of dark matter these planets could make up for is again lower.

On the other hand, I guess it might also be that planets are more frequent than we imagine by a large factor.

Re:Dark matter? (1)

shish (588640) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178188)

A bunch of planets floating around in space without orbiting a star

Come to think of it, why are we working on the assumption that basically every object in the universe is on fire*? As a personal bet, £5 says that the vast majority of mass in the universe is in solar systems where the central object either wasn't on fire, or has burnt out billions of years ago

* Yeah, AFAIK the official explanation for this assumption is "because that's all we can see", but maths says there must be more - the explanation for the rest always seems to have dark matter being some mysterious meta-mass unlike anything we know about, rather than simply being planets with no nearby light source...

Re:Dark matter? (3, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178230)

A bunch of planets floating around in space without orbiting a star

Come to think of it, why are we working on the assumption that basically every object in the universe is on fire*? As a personal bet, £5 says that the vast majority of mass in the universe is in solar systems where the central object either wasn't on fire, or has burnt out billions of years ago

* Yeah, AFAIK the official explanation for this assumption is "because that's all we can see", but maths says there must be more - the explanation for the rest always seems to have dark matter being some mysterious meta-mass unlike anything we know about, rather than simply being planets with no nearby light source...

And your PHB says it shouldn't take so long to write programs.

How come everyone around here knows more than the experts? Do you really think astronomers are too dumb to think of all the non-stellar matter in and between the galaxies?

Re:Dark matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36178332)

If this paper is just being published, I would think that astronomers might be too smart to think of all non-stellar matter when doing their calculations...

Re:Dark matter? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178648)

The paper is not a new idea, it's evidence for an old idea.

Re:Dark matter? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178412)

How come everyone around here knows more than the experts? Do you really think astronomers are too dumb to think of all the non-stellar matter in and between the galaxies?

Can't speak for the parent ... I don't think astronomers are too dumb to do that, I know that at a minimum, I'm too dumb to fully understand this stuff ... so I asked because if there's suddenly a lot more planets floating about in space, maybe it's mass we've not accounted for.

The problem with astronomy and the like ... is that it is so specialized and arcane, that the rest of us have a hard time understanding WTF they're talking about. :-P

I have no idea what all astronomers have factored into their accounts of non-stellar matter ... have they included the space poop from the space cows? ;-)

Re:Dark matter? (1)

gpronger (1142181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178480)

I'll take you up on the bet, we just need to figure out how we find ourselves in the same to to even up.

Re:Dark matter? (1)

EasyTarget (43516) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178190)

I have seen articles on DM talk about how intersolar and intergalactic dust clouds have been accounted for but I dont know 'how'.

It may be that these bodies get accounted for in our current models since they will have a similar effect when observed at a distance; blocking light, affecting gravitational interactions and emitting radiation. So maybe these are already captured in the models and what we are seeing here is a refinement of what interstellar 'dust' is really composed of..

Re:Dark matter? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178696)

I have seen articles on DM talk about how intersolar and intergalactic dust clouds have been accounted for but I dont know 'how'.

Because we can *see* them. They have no light of their own, but they occlude the light sources behind them, changing it even though they may not block it completely. Whatever dark matter is, it is completely transparent to light over intergalactic distances (except for gravitational effects, but apparently it's diffuse enough that those aren't detectable). That's not possible with any form of "ordinary" matter.

Re:Dark matter? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178710)

what we are seeing here is a refinement of what interstellar 'dust' is really composed of.

Yep, that's it in a nutshell.

Re:Dark matter? (4, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178622)

We know about dark matter not through micro-lensing but because of galactic structure. Galaxies rotate. If all the mass there was in any given galaxy was just what we could see, the centrifugal force would tear apart immediately. The only way we can account for sufficient gravitational attraction to keep stars in their orbits around the galactic center is to assume a lot of mass we can't see--dark matter. Most calculations based on stellar orbits consistently come up with figures for dark matter of over 80% of the matter in the universe. There's more than four times as much dark matter as what we can see. And whatever dark matter is, it apparently is diffuse enough that we don't see it micro-lensing anything, and doesn't otherwise interact with light or other EM radiation, because we find no trace of it in the light that reaches earth from all corners of the universe; therefore it *can't* be ordinary matter as we understand it, because any form of ordinary matter in that quantity would produce detectable occlusion of the light sources behind it. So what is it? Answer that question and win a Nobel.

Re:Dark matter? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178980)

Thanks (to you and the other posters who have actually explained this).

As I suspected, I was talking out of my ass -- nice to have it actually explained. It just seemed that some of this stuff might be "hard to see" (like a planet floating in space), but you're talking about stuff on a completely different scale.

Cheers.

Re:Dark matter? (4, Interesting)

thegreatemu (1457577) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178642)

There was some attempt a while back to assign dark matter to things like this, or free-floating black holes, brown dwarf stars, etc. I.e., somewhat exotic (or not) objects composed of normal matter.

However, in the past maybe 10 years, the constraints for dark matter come much more from cosmological arguments than from observations of the galaxy today. If you're interested, I'd suggest googling WMAP and baryon acoustic oscillations. The basic idea is that we can study the cosmic microwave background, which is the left over radiation as the universe cooled below a critical point some few 100k years after the big bang. In the CMB are embedded small fluctuations like ripples in a pond after you throw rocks in, which are the imprint of pressure waves spreading outward through the primordial plasma. By studying the size and spacing of these ripples, and applying a whole crapton of cool math, you can deduce things like the speed at which those ripples propagate, which is a direct function of both the total matter density and the baryonic (i.e. normal) matter density.

Of course I'm skipping all the details, but the basic result is that, although we first noticed dark matter from observing the motion of galaxies today, it was confirmed to a much better degree by observing the universe in its birth stages, and it's these latter measurements that tell us that dark matter absolutely cannot be due to the behavior of matter and general relativity as we understand it today.

Re:Dark matter? (4, Informative)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178668)

OK, so I've never really understood 'dark matter', but if there's a bunch of stuff floating about that's not stars and only shows up through things like gravitational micro-lensing ... might this cover some of the mass that is dark matter?

Maybe, for galactic dark matter, which is completely unrelated in every respect to dark matter on larger scales, although ignorant people typically use the general term "dark matter" to refer to all types of dark matter indiscriminately, creating enormous confusion in the process.

Galactic dark matter (GDM) is hypothesized as an explanation for the flat rotation curves of spiral galaxies. Based on the visible matter (stars) in a galaxy we can get an estimate of the mass inside a given radius. At sufficiently high radii we see the amount of visible matter dropping off, and expect that the few stars at even larger radii will start to behave like planets orbiting a distant mass with a 1/r**2 fall off in gravitational strength. But we don't see that. Instead more distant stars move as if the amount of matter inside their orbits around the galactic center contained ever more mass as they get further and further away. We can't see any visible matter to account for this, ergo, "dark matter".

One possible candidate for GDM are so-called "MACroscopic Halo Objects" (MACHOS, to contrast them with Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or WIMPS. Physicists really need to get out more.)

An impediment to the MACHO hypothesis has been that the Initial Mass Function, which describes the probability of an object of mass M condensing out of a primordial cloud of gas and/or dust, was believed to drop off rather steeply at low masses. This observation suggests that it is at least a little higher than previously estimated, although I don't know if that is anywhere near high enough to account for a significant portion of GDM--my sense is not, but it's been a few years since I've paid much attention to this question.

At larger scales we also see anomalous motion of galaxies and galactic clusters relative to the amount of visible matter, and at the very largest scale there is much less visible mass than required to keep the universe in the state of almost-but-not-quite-closed that we see. If these phenomena are caused by an excess of matter at larger scales we know that it is non-baryonic (not made of protons and neutrons) because we have a very good estimate of the density of protons and neutrons in the universe based on primordial nucleosynthesis: the denser the early universe was in protons and neutrons, the more helium would have been created, and given we know the early universe was about 23% helium (there are complex self-consistency checks on this number based on other atomic species) we know there are not enough protons and neutrons to account for the large-scale dark matter (LSDM).

Therefore, we know that LSDM is completely unrelated in every respect to GDM: the problems they solve have different constraints and one requires exotic new physics while the other is relatively mundane. It is deeply unfortunate that people are so incompetent in their use of abstractions that they are chronically unable to distinguish between these two unrelated problems.

Using the word "may" in a title... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36177950)

...may be a sign of really poor journalism.

Either it is or it isn't. If there is too much ambiguity to make a statement about it, then it isn't news yet.

Re:Using the word "may" in a title... (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#36177964)

Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

nerdcred++

Re:Using the word "may" in a title... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36178352)

The new episodes don't count. Besides, it's a idiotic self-defeating quote ("only" is an absolute).

Re:Using the word "may" in a title... (2)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178100)

Well, it's better than the default: take something very ambiguous and present it as truth.

Re:Using the word "may" in a title... (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178156)

Either it is or it isn't.

That statement is a sign of someone not understanding statistics.

Re:Using the word "may" in a title... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178726)

If you want absolute certainty, join a religion.

So... (3, Funny)

Dorsai65 (804760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36177956)

Which administration gets the blame for that?

Re:So... (1)

jefe7777 (411081) | more than 3 years ago | (#36177980)

anal administration gets a lot of bad press but it's really effective for some treatments...

Re:So... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178040)

Which ever one that you are not part of.
Those planets were either taxed out of orbit or Forced out of orbit by corporations with not government protection.
Maybe the planets residents overused solar energy and sucked their sun dry? Or the enemy on the other side of the globe decided it was a good idea to bow up the sun when it was night for them, as to destroy their sun.

wonderers (1)

one cup of coffee (1623645) | more than 3 years ago | (#36177970)

Well, the Greek word for wonderer is planitis. Seems even more appropriate in light of this report.

Re:wonderers (2)

tangelogee (1486597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178090)

Well, the Greek word for wonderer is planitis. Seems even more appropriate in light of this report.

I wonder if you mean wander...

Re:wonderers (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178106)

I think you mean "wanderer" -- as in they "wandered around the sky" not "wondered what was for lunch".

Re:wonderers (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178114)

No. The Greek word for wanderer is planitis. Well periplani̱theÃ.

Hint: To wonder and to wander is not the same. For instance, The Great Pyramid is a wonder of the world, but it sure as hell isn't a wanderer of the world.

Re:wonderers (2)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179252)

The Great Pyramid is a wonder of the world, but it sure as hell isn't a wanderer of the world.

It's just "stunned".

Warp Drive (2)

The Bringer (653232) | more than 3 years ago | (#36177978)

How much would it suck to collide with a randomly floating planet as you're ripping around the cosmos at warp 9?

Re:Warp Drive (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178078)

Not much, seeing as you need to be in a "subspace" bubble to travel at warp speed.

Re:Warp Drive (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178164)

Not much, seeing as you need to be in a "subspace" bubble to travel at warp speed.

Yeah, but you still don't want to bump into things, and you still need to navigate.

That's what the deflector dish is for ... it's not like they could just run through a star due to the subspace bubble. You still need to avoid objects at warp speed.

Re:Warp Drive (1)

arunce (1934350) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178398)

The warp bubble would rip the objects.

Re:Warp Drive (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178546)

The warp bubble would rip the objects.

Things like planets and stars? I highly doubt it.

If they're using a deflector beam [memory-alpha.org] to get microscopic particles out of the way, they're sure as hell not ripping through planets and stars.

I'm pretty sure if they did something like that, they'd pretty much be destroyed -- in rather a spectacular way I should think. You think a car driving into a wall creates carnage? A starship crashing into a star at warp speed is going to make one hell of a boom.

Re:Warp Drive (1)

arunce (1934350) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178678)

Not the ship, but the warped bubble it self would rip it. Can you imagine the energy used to warp between two points of space? Nobody can. Oh Star Trek... forget, I was kidding.

Re:Warp Drive (2)

I'm not really here (1304615) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178140)

If you're ripping around the cosmos at warp 9, time and space are warping around you, so you'd never know the planet was there...

Today we have homeless planets... (0)

arunce (1934350) | more than 3 years ago | (#36177986)

tomorrow we will have homeless moons, rocks, asteroids etc etc etc... and dark matter will be reduced in a big 0.000001%.

Re:Today we have homeless planets... (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178184)

tomorrow we will have homeless moons, rocks, asteroids etc etc etc... and dark matter will be reduced in a big 0.000001%.

Except that they have to account for five times as much as what astronomers can see or infer exists.

Did it ever occur to you that the experts might actually know what they're talking about?

Re:Today we have homeless planets... (1)

arunce (1934350) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178328)

No doubt on that. But we have to assume the existence of hundreds more times normal/visible matter. After all there are some educated guesses that only 5% of the known universe is made of atoms. Even if you extrapolate 5000 "starless" planets per star, you still have to think about how massive a star can be.

Aliens among us... (2)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178004)

So that's where homeless people come from!

Re:Aliens among us... (1)

The Bringer (653232) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178048)

I prefer to refer to them as outdoorsy.

Re:Aliens among us... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179492)

in German I like to call them "gutter-seeky"

Would make a great way to reach the stars (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178018)

If a four light year hop is too far maybe it will be possible for space craft to reach the nearest "homeless" planet, refuel and carry on.

Re:Would make a great way to reach the stars (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178108)

What manner of fuel do expect to find on the "homeless" planet?

Re:Would make a great way to reach the stars (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178206)

What manner of fuel do expect to find on the "homeless" planet?

Slingshot?

Spaceships tend to just carry on also without fuel... the vacuum of space doesn't offer much friction.

Unless the planet happens to travel in the same direction at a similar speed, it wouldn't make much sense to slow down, refuel, and speed up again. Might as well wait until you're at the destination and slow down then. But a slingshot from such a planet might be nice!

Re:Would make a great way to reach the stars (1)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178268)

If there are "the homeless" on the planet, might I suggest Soylent Green [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Would make a great way to reach the stars (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178304)

What manner of fuel do expect to find on the "homeless" planet?

More importantly, what do you find to *eat*?

I don't mind burning mummies to power my spaceship, but when it's dinnertime I expect fresh sapient brains on the plate.

Re:Would make a great way to reach the stars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36178152)

ummmmm.... care to explain that in more detail? You plan on landing on a large rock not orbiting a star. It will likely be a few degree Kelvin warmer than absolute zero. It will have no atmosphere. No food. And it will be at the bottom of a gravitational well. What part of this indicates it would be a good launching pad for space exploration?

Re:Would make a great way to reach the stars (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178716)

The gravitational well?

See gravitational slingshots.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity_assist [wikipedia.org]

Re:Would make a great way to reach the stars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36178924)

Not if the dude is looking to land on it for "fuel"

Idle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36178146)

The "idle" tag is suspiciously missing...

Homeless planets throughout the galaxy? (4, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178158)

I guess the economy's bad *everywhere*.

Re:Homeless planets throughout the galaxy? (1)

TheOldFart (578597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179182)

You made me spit my coke everywhere... Thanks! :)

Lazy Stars (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178174)

"the researchers estimated that there are nearly two free-floaters for every star in our galaxy."

Someone really needs to tell these stars to remember to flush when they are done with their solar discharges.

Now we only need... (1)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178182)

...to find the five worlds in a Klemperer Rosette and see how far they've made it so far.

The year 1994.... (1)

kungfugleek (1314949) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178228)

Ruby Spears Productions was only wrong about the year:

The year 1994: From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon...

Thundarr Intro [youtube.com]

Re:The year 1994.... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178730)

Lords of Light!

Re:The year 1994.... (1)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179264)

Demon dogs!

Not really planets (4, Interesting)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178260)

Tch, they're not really planets, right? I mean, if they're not orbiting a star, then they can't have "cleared the neighborhood of their orbit". Yet one more reason the IAU's current definition is so idiotic. (Besides the fact that it suggests that Mercury is more like Jupiter than it is like Ceres.)

Re:Not really planets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36179040)

Well, you are right. They are actually substars, sub-brown dwarfs, failed brown dwarfs, rogue planets or planetars.

I really don't understand what your confusion is all about, it's all well-defined.

Re:Not really planets (1)

gQuigs (913879) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179046)

Depends on your definition of cleared.

I assume they meant: to remove people or objects from
Alternatively: so as not to be in contact with or near

[http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/clear]

Re:Not really planets (1)

hogghogg (791053) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179078)

Tch, they're not really planets, right? I mean, if they're not orbiting a star, then they can't have "cleared the neighborhood of their orbit". Yet one more reason the IAU's current definition is so idiotic. (Besides the fact that it suggests that Mercury is more like Jupiter than it is like Ceres.)

Yes, they are planets most likely, because they probably formed around a star and then got kicked out dynamically. This is expected generically in models of how solar systems form and evolve (in particular we think it happened multiple times in our own Solar System).

Re:Not really planets (1)

Turnpike Lad (1006707) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179392)

Have we ever seen an object pass through our solar system in a hyperbolic orbit? If there are so many objects in interstellar space you'd think we'd see a few of them slingshotting around the sun now and then,

disaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36178300)

And what happens when one the size of Jupiter passes through a solar system such as ours?

Re:disaster (1)

TheOldFart (578597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179122)

I don't know about you but that's when the Christian right would scream "Rapture"...

Re:disaster (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179510)

it would be more like a "rupture"

Space 1999 (1)

Altesse (698587) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178306)

Obligatory reference : Space 1999 [wikipedia.org] . Greatest show ever.

Re:Space 1999 (1)

TempestRose (1187397) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178994)

All we have to do is put all the leftover radioactive crap on the moon. What could possibly go wrong?

That's no homeless planet. (1)

Coldfinger (954122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178408)

It's a space station!

Halo Worlds (1)

Lebrun (655496) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178472)

This reminds me of the Halo Worlds depicted in Charles Stross's Permanence. In the novel, those systems, usually orbiting a brown dwarf, accounted for the missing mass in the universe, so it turned out there was no 'dark matter'. The halo worlds were also the way for humanity to first venture into interstellar travel.

I know what's out there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36178512)

The missing Dreadnaught fleet.

Obviously... (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178532)

The Scientists are getting us ready to tell us the truth about Nibiru [wikipedia.org]

Classic movie reference (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 3 years ago | (#36178960)

So, this means that "When Worlds Collide" [imdb.com] will be lived out, right? In 2012 [imdb.com] , right?

Homeless planets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36179020)

So, there are planets out there that live under overpasses with signs that say "Will work for sun"?

generically expected; great if found (4, Interesting)

hogghogg (791053) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179048)

Free-floating planets are generically expected: Essentially all models for how solar systems like ours (and the others we now know) involve dynamical interactions that would kick out planets at high velocity, leaving them unbound. Astronomers have expected to find these for decades, but have been unable to do so because a planet not warmed by a nearby star gets cold fast (hundreds of thousands to millions of years) and therefore invisible even in the infrared. This result is very important if correct, because gravitational lensing is an emission-insensitive way to find the planets. And yes, IAAA! (ps As for whether they are "spacecraft": I love that idea, but the "people" onboard probably wouldn't give the planet an impulse themselves (way, way, espensivo), they would make use of a free-floater passing by and hitch the ride.)

Warp Drive (2)

TheOldFart (578597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179052)

That would put a hamper on a warp speed jaunt... Is that a super nova? No, it was Billy Joe smashing into a free floater...

Kind of sad, but... (2)

HeyBob! (111243) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179406)

At first I was kind of sad thinking about all those billions of frozen planets floating around out there, with no chance of the kind of life that could explore the universe (there may be life on a hot Jupiter type planet, but I doubt they could build telescopes and space ships)

But then I thought about advanced civilizations - really advanced. They could use these wandering planets for their resources - it could be a good series of sci-fi books
"The Planet Miners"

Free-floaters? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#36179412)

What a crappy name. I say we call them hippie planets. Aimless, shiftless, wandering space with no rhyme or reason and expecting a hard-working star to just show up and carry their dead weight. I bet they're devoid of water (and soap) as well.

Suits me - "planet" means "wanderer" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36179424)

It's from the Greek word "planasthai, to wander."

Ringworld anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36179612)

Anyone read that book? Kinda covers this.

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