This artist’s conception illustrates a Jupiter-like planet alone in the dark of space, floating freely without a parent star.


Exoplanet hunters have found thousands of planets, most orbiting close to their host stars, but relatively few alien worlds have been detected that float freely through the galaxy as so-called rogue planets, not bound to any star. Many astronomers believe that these planets are more common than we know, but that our planet-finding techniques haven’t been up to the task of locating them.


A planet survey, called the Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA), scanned the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy from 2006 to 2007. It used a 5.9-foot (1.8-meter) telescope at Mount John University Observatory in New Zealand, and a technique called gravitational microlensing. In this method, a planet-sized body is identified indirectly as it just happens to pass in front of a more distant star, causing the star to brighten. The effect is like a cosmic funhouse mirror, or magnifying lens – light from the background star is warped and amplified, becoming brighter.

一项名为天体物理学中的微透镜观测 (MOA) 的行星调查扫描了2006年至2007年我们银河系的中央凸起。它使用了新西兰约翰大学天文台的一台5.9英尺(1.8米)的望远镜,并且一种称为引力微透镜的技术。在这种方法中,行星大小的天体被间接识别,因为它恰好从更远的恒星前面经过,导致恒星变亮。效果就像一个宇宙游乐场的镜子,或放大镜——来自背景恒星的光被扭曲和放大,变得更亮。

Using the latest technology, NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will conduct a survey to discover many more exoplanets using powerful techniques available to a wide-field telescope.


Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


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