Vocablets in the News: Rogue Planets

What’s really going on behind the Vocablet?  Let’s take a closer look.

The Word:

 

The Story:

I love space.  I love how little we know about it, which means constant research and amazing discoveries.  I love how every time we think we have it figured out, we learn something completely unexpected, allowing for freedom of imagination and speculation when coming up with new theories.  I love trying to expand my brain enough to conceptualize the sheer size of it — which is, of course, impossible.

The universe is really, really big.

Most of that is just empty space between stars.

If you look up into the sky on a clear night without any light pollution, you can see about 2,500 stars.  But our galaxy, the Milky Way, actually has about 300 billion stars.  That’s 300,000,000,000 stars!

And yet, scientists are now saying that the number of planets in our galaxy is even higher. (National Geographic, 18 May 2011)

A new study has shown that a new class of planets, called rogue planets, roam freely around space without being tethered to the gravitational pull of a star.  The ones found so far are Jupiter-like gas giants, but scientists speculate that smaller rogue planets could be out there, undetectable by current methods.

Size comparison -- see the tiny Earth in the middle?

This means that the closest rogue planet to Earth may be nearer than the closest star (other than the sun).

 

Why It Matters:

Of course, the immediate question that comes to mind is: with all these planets whizzing through space, is it possible that there could be life on any of them?

Are there little green men on planets right next door that we didn't even know were there?

Even without the heat of a nearby star, scientists say it’s possible.  Even some of the coldest planets in our solar system have hot cores, so a rogue planet that’s icy on the outside could be hot in its core, with liquid water in between.

Anything is possible.

 

Making It Memorable:

What did you think when you saw this vocablet? How is it memorable to YOU?

Do you think there could be life out there on one of these rogue planets, or anywhere at all?  Do you have a story about roving celestial bodies or new research in astronomy?  Make it into a vocablet and post a link!

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