How do we understand the planets?
We are thought the simplest understanding that they are heavenly bodies that rotate in a solar system-esque with a star. Our planet, Earth, is a part of our solar system with the Sun as the main star of this system. There are probably hundreds of thousands of solar systems like ours in the universe as we speak, many yet to be discovered which just shows how vast and mysterious our universe is.
One of these mysteries are planets that do not conform to the basic principle of planetary systems. Called rogue planets, they are freely floating planets that drift through our galaxy without a star. Somewhat like a mythical creature, these have fascinated astronomers alike which set in motion the quest to better document and understand them.
In the latest press release from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), folks over at the space agency have been studying and observing these mysterious rogue planets the earnest and have published their findings for the public to view.
The study used one of the space agency’s prime assets, the Roman Space Telescope, to locate and analyze one of the least understood heavenly bodies of our universe.
How did they do it?
Astronomers, through the Roman Space Telescope, used a technology called a large-scale microlensing survey. But how does this work you may ask? It uses the light from a nearby larger heavenly object, let us say a distant planet for example, and the light that it emits. When a rogue planet comes nearby these larger objects, they tend to bend the light that it emits due to the gravitational effect that it incurs. This phenomenon is clear evidence of their existence yet they are extremely rare and hard to find. Scientists only have a short window of opportunity to be able to document it before it is gone forever – never to return again.
The work in studying these rogue planets is sure very difficult but with the help of NASA facilities such as the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, it can help detect these virtually ‘invisible’ bodies in space with its advanced technologies and equipment.
NASA’s Roman telescope will survey a large swath of area in the universe to be able to fully maximize its microlensing capabilities. According to the study’s proponents, it will help in testing several different planetary formation and evolution models to help us better understand how other planter systems work. Studying rogue planets is a key part of it.
This excites the whole astronomy community for we may have distant planetary systems that are similar to us or rather unique and adversely different from us. Our fundamental understanding of astronomy might be changed as we know it. As one of the main proponents of the study puts it – “As our view of the universe has expanded, we’ve realized that our solar system may be unusual. Roman [telescope] will help us learn more about how we fit in the cosmic scheme of things by studying rogue planets.” And with the Roman telescope’s census of the stars, we will be at that point in time real soon.