The Atlantic

The Rogue Planets That Wander the Galaxy Alone

Astronomers are searching for mysterious, free-floating worlds across the Milky Way.
Source: Jan Skowron / Astronomical Observatory / University of Warsaw

The Milky Way is home to hundreds of billions of stars, and many more planets. Some come in sets, as in our own solar system. But not every planet orbits a star.

Some planets actually wander the galaxy alone, untethered. They have no days or nights, and they exist in perpetual darkness. In a kitschy NASA collection of travel posters for destinations beyond Earth, one of these cold worlds is advertised with the motto: “Visit the planet with no star, where the nightlife never ends.”

Astronomers call these worlds free-floating, or rogue, planets. They are mysterious objects, and a small group of researchers around the world is dedicated to studying them. Of the that scientists have detected beyond our solar system so far, only about a dozen are sunless and coasting on their own, somewhere between us and the center of the Milky Way. At least, astronomers think

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