Trillions Of Rogue Planets In Our Galaxy? New Discoveries Hint At Milky Way's Immensity

hero esa euclid horsehead
The Euclid space telescope unveiled seven more rogue planets in an image of the Horesehead Nebula, roughly 1,500 light years from Earth. Making the find even more incredible is that these free-floating planets do not reflect the light of a star, making them extremely hard to spot.

Rogue planets are not tethered to a star, so they float freely through the universe. Because they do not orbit a star, there are no days or years on them, leaving them in eternal darkness. Along with finding the seven new rogue planets in an image of the Horesehead Nebula, scientists and astronomers were also able to confirm the existence of dozens of other previously detected rogue planets. This only adds to the theory scientists have held that there could be trillions of rogue planets throughout the universe.

Spanish astronomer Eduardo Martin, lead author of a pre-print study on the newly found rogue planets, remarked that the find is likely only the “tip of the iceberg.” He added that because the planets do not reflect the light of a star, finding them is like “finding a needle in a haystack.”

euclid space telescope

While the term “rogue” may bring to mind planets that drift along in the universe alone, four of the more than 20 confirmed by Euclid are binaries, meaning two planets orbiting each other. Scientists also believe that there is a possibility that these rogue planets could host life, even though they never see the light of day.

There are a few advantages for a planet not to orbit a nearby star. An example is in an estimated 7.6 billion years, Earth’s Sun will consume the planet as it expands and becomes a red giant.

Christopher Conselice, professor of extragalactic astronomy at the UK’s University of Manchester explains, “These things (rogue exoplanets) will last forever. If you don’t mind the cold temperatures you could survive on these planets for eternity.”

The European Space Agency’s Euclid space telescope will continue on its mission to create a great map of the large-scale structure of the Universe across space and time by observing billions of galaxies. As it does, hopefully one day scientists and astronomers can give a more certain answer as to what the Universe truly holds.