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Are Rogue Planets Dangerous

author
Christina Perez
• Friday, 27 November, 2020
• 18 min read

And given the kind of topic I like to write about, are we in any danger from a close encounter with one of these galactic nomads? These wandering planets are so dark and distant they are currently essentially impossible to detect using regular techniques, so we don't know if any are in our galactic neighborhood or not.

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The only way to get a grip on how close one might be is to look at it in a statistical sense: on average in the galaxy, how many of these planets are there per cubic light year of space? No doubt there will be people who may want to claim these rogue planets might explain Bird or Planet X or the Mayan apocalypse.

And I might as well address the TL;DR crowd: the conclusions I draw here are that a) on average, a rogue planet may be closer than I would've initially guessed, but 2) not nearly close enough to be a concern in any way. Crank up the volume Basically, all we need to do is take the number of rogue planets in the galaxy and divide it by the volume of the galaxy, and that gives us the density of these planets in space: how many there are in a cube a light year on a side.

If the answer is, say, 1 then we expect to have one rogue planet inside a one-light-year-wide cube centered on the Sun. In other words, We'd expect to find one of these wandering planets in a volume of space encompassing 100 cubic light years.

That means there's a pretty good chance that, statistically speaking, there may be one of these rogue planets closer to us than the nearest star! A planet ten thousand times farther away than Jupiter may as well not exist as far as gravitational effects are concerned.

Could a rogue planet dislodge a bunch of these and drop them toward us, triggering impacts and a mass extinction? Even a trillion comets spread out over that amount of space makes things pretty thin out there; on average those objects are a billion kilometers apart.

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(Source: starwars.fandom.com)

The odds of a planet getting close enough to dislodge even a single Oort cloud object is pretty small. We're a pretty small target in a lot of solar system.

And let's have a sanity check: if this were a real danger, we'd see evidence of it in the fossil record. I'm not saying asteroid and/or comet impacts aren't a danger at all, just that ones triggered by a rogue planet whizzing past us is incredibly small.

But in this case, interstellar planets doing the deed specifically aren't a worry. I'm very much surprised that one of these interstellar nomads could be closer than even the nearest star; that's amazing.

The solar system and the Earth are terribly old, and there's been lots of time for disasters to occur. If these planets were a real and immediate threat it seems clear we'd have known about it long before now (as we know about, say, asteroid impacts).

It would be too far away to send a space probe (let alone visit), but with sensitive telescopes it's not crazy to think we might actually be able to actually see one. Our solar system should be pretty stable over the next few billion years.

wars species star rpg teedo alien guide aliens starwars sentient clone
(Source: www.pinterest.com)

And given the kind of topic I like to write about, are we in any danger from a close encounter with one of these galactic nomads? These wandering planets are so dark and distant they are currently essentially impossible to detect using regular techniques, so we don’t know if any are in our galactic neighborhood or not.

The only way to get a grip on how close one might be is to look at it in a statistical sense: on average in the galaxy, how many of these planets are there per cubic light year of space? No doubt there will be people who may want to claim these rogue planets might explain Bird or Planet X or the Mayan apocalypse.

And I might as well address the TL;DR crowd: the conclusions I draw here are that a) on average, a rogue planet may be closer than I would’ve initially guessed, but 2) not nearly close enough to be a concern in any way. If the answer is, say, 1 then we expect to have one rogue planet inside a one-light-year-wide cube centered on the Sun.

A planet ten thousand times farther away than Jupiter may as well not exist as far as gravitational effects are concerned. Out way past Neptune is a population of icy bodies that, when they fall toward the Sun, turn into comets.

Even a trillion comets spread out over that amount of space makes things pretty thin out there; on average those objects are a billion kilometers apart. The odds of a planet getting close enough to dislodge even a single Oort cloud object is pretty small.

solar system changes would doom jupiter shutterstock there
(Source: www.grunge.com)

We’re a pretty small target in a lot of solar system. And let’s have a sanity check: if this were a real danger, we’d see evidence of it in the fossil record.

I’m not saying asteroid and/or comet impacts aren’t a danger at all, just that ones triggered by a rogue planet whizzing past us is incredibly small. But in this case, interstellar planets doing the deed specifically aren’t a worry.

I’m very much surprised that one of these interstellar nomads could be closer than even the nearest star; that’s amazing. The solar system and the Earth are terribly old, and there’s been lots of time for disasters to occur.

If these planets were a real and immediate threat it seems clear we’d have known about it long before now (as we know about, say, asteroid impacts). The very fact that life has been around for billions of years, and complex life for hundreds of millions, means rogue planets don’t create cosmic calamities often enough to be a worry.

That is, in an “Oh my FSM we’re all going to die!” kind of concern. It would be too far away to send a space probe (let alone visit), but with sensitive telescopes it’s not crazy to think we might actually be able to actually see one.

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(Source: dorksideoftheforce.com)

Our solar system should be pretty stable over the next few billion years. These dark, lonely worlds have no star to orbit, no light in which to bask, no warmth to be radiated by.

These planets circle the young star in a thin disc of grains and gas and grow when these small particles stick and pull each other together until they clear their immediate surroundings. Stars tend not to form alone, but in clusters of hundreds or thousands at once, and encounters between their nascent planetary systems cause further havoc.

Young Earth is thought to have been hit by a Mars-sized body, knocking out enough material to form the Moon. But some planets faced a darker future: they were knocked out altogether, destined for a life in the vast coldness of space between the stars.

It was predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity and was first verified when stars were seen to be displaced from their usual positions when viewed close to the Sun while it was perfectly eclipsed by the Moon in 1919. One observation was caused by a black hole in a “nearby” massive galaxy called Messier 87, in 2019.

The sighting of the amplification of the light from an inconspicuous star in the dense inner regions of the Milky Way galaxy only lasted 42 minutes. This meant it had to be a small object and the estimated mass left no doubt that it had to be a planet not much different from Earth.

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(Source: www.niadd.com)

Perhaps technologically advanced civilizations could overcome the inconveniences of eternal darkness and an ice age with no comparison in Earth’s long and varied history? Because as the Sun ages, swells up and blows half of itself into space, Earth will either be swallowed by it, or be forced away.

Astronomers have used the Herschel Space Observatory and the Very Large Telescope to observe a very young free-floating planetary-mass object, ITS 44, and demonstrate that the processes characterizing the canonical star-like mode of formation apply to isolated objects down to a few Jupiter masses. Herschel far-infrared observations have shown that ITS 44 is surrounded by a disk of at least 10 Earth masses and thus could eventually form a mini planetary system.

Spectroscopic observations of ITS 44 with the SINFONIA spectrograph at the Very Large Telescope have revealed that the disk is actively accreting matter, similarly to the disks of young stars. In December 2013, a candidate exomoon of a rogue planet was announced.

Artist's conception of a Jupiter -size rogue planet. Astrophysicist Akihito Semi of Osaka University in Japan and colleagues, who form the Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics and the Optical Gravitational Lending Experiment collaborations, published their study of microlensing in 2011. They observed 50 million stars in the Milky Way by using the 1.8-metre (5 ft 11 in) MOA-II telescope at New Zealand's Mount John Observatory and the 1.3-metre (4 ft 3 in) University of Warsaw telescope at Chile's Las Campinas Observatory.

They found 474 incidents of microlensing, ten of which were brief enough to be planets of around Jupiter's size with no associated star in the immediate vicinity. The researchers estimated from their observations that there are nearly two Jupiter-mass rogue planets for every star in the Milky Way.

earth rotating spinning animation stopped resources
(Source: www.yaabot.com)

One study suggested a much larger number, up to 100,000 times more rogue planets than stars in the Milky Way, though this study encompassed hypothetical objects much smaller than Jupiter. A 2017 study by Przemek MRO of Warsaw University Observatory and colleagues, with six times larger statistics than the 2011 study, indicates an upper limit on Jupiter-mass free-floating or wide-orbit planets of 0.25 planets per main-sequence star in the Milky Way.

Nearby rogue planet candidates include WISE 08550714 at a distance of 7.27±0.13 light-years. Artist's impression of a rogue planet by A. StelterInterstellar planets generate little heat and are not heated by a star.

However, in 1998, David J. Stevenson theorized that some planet-sized objects adrift in interstellar space might sustain a thick atmosphere that would not freeze out. He proposed that these atmospheres would be preserved by the pressure-induced far- infrared radiation opacity of a thick hydrogen -containing atmosphere.

During planetary-system formation, several small protoplanetary bodies may be ejected from the system. An ejected body would receive less of the stellar-generated ultraviolet light that can strip away the lighter elements of its atmosphere.

Even an Earth-sized body would have enough gravity to prevent the escape of the hydrogen and helium in its atmosphere. In an Earth-sized object that has a kilo bar atmospheric pressure of hydrogen and a convective gas adiabatic , the geothermal energy from residual core radioisotope decay could maintain a surface temperature above the melting point of water, allowing liquid-water oceans to exist.

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(Source: warhammer40k.wikia.com)

These planets are likely to remain geologically active for long periods. If they have geodynamo-created protective magnetosphere and sea floor volcanism, hydrothermal vents could provide energy for life.

These bodies would be difficult to detect because of their weak thermal microwave radiation emissions, although reflected solar radiation and far-infrared thermal emissions may be detectable from an object that is less than 1000 astronomical units from Earth. Around five percent of Earth-sized ejected planets with Moon-sized natural satellites would retain their satellites after ejection.

A large satellite would be a source of significant geological tidal heating. The table below lists rogue planets, confirmed or suspected, that have been discovered.

It is yet unknown whether these planets were ejected from orbiting a star or else formed on their own as sub-brown dwarfs. Whether exceptionally low-mass rogue planets (such as OGLE-2012-BLG-1323 and KMT-2019-BLG-2073) are even capable of being formed on their own is currently unknown.

“A Sub-Earth-Mass Moon Orbiting a Gas Giant Primary or a High Velocity Planetary System in the Galactic Bulge”. Golf, Evan (1 October 2021).

“A Rogue Earth-Mass Planet Has Been Discovered Freely Floating in the Milky Way Without a Star”. MRO, Przemek; et al. (29 September 2021).

“Unbound or Distant Planetary Mass Population Detected by Gravitational Microlensing”. ^ “Researchers say galaxy may swarm with 'nomad planets “.

“No large population of unbound or wide-orbit Jupiter-mass planets “. ^ Lehman, Kevin L.; Split, Tarzan L. (September 2016).

“A Rogue Earth-Mass Planet Has Been Discovered Freely Floating in the Milky Way Without a Star”. “A Terrestrial-mass Rogue Planet Candidate Detected in the Shortest-timescale Microlensing Event”.

“Timescales for Planetary Accretion and the Structure of the Protoplanetary disk”. ^ Abbot, Dorian S.; Switzer, Eric R. (2 June 2011).

“The Steppenwolf: A proposal for a habitable planet in interstellar space”. ^ Debts, John H.; Stand Sigurðsson (20 October 2007).

^ Lehman, Kevin L. (10 February 2005). “Spitzer Identification of the Least Massive Known Brown Dwarf with a Circumstellar Disk”.

“Discovery of Young, Isolated Planetary Mass Objects in the Orion is Star Cluster”. ^ Lehman, Kevin L. (10 December 2005).

“Discovery of a Planetary-Mass Brown Dwarf with a Circumstellar Disk”. ^ Antigua, Étienne; Doyen, René; Cafetiere, David; Nadeau, Daniel; Robert, Jasmin; Albert, Loïc (n.d.).

“Discovery of the Brightest T Dwarf in the Northern Hemisphere”. ^ Gagné, Jonathan; Flaherty, Jacqueline K.; Burgesses, Adam J.; Antigua, Étienne; Bouchard, Sadie; Albert, Loïc; Cafetiere, David; Doyen, René; Bardalez-Gagliuffi, Daniella C. (15 May 2017).

“SIMS J013656.5+093347 is Likely a Planetary-Mass Object in the Carina-Near Moving Group”. “A Young Planetary-Mass Object in the Of Cloud Core”.

^ Deformed, Philippe (25 September 2012). “CFBDSIR2149-0403: a 4-7 Jupiter-mass free-floating planet in the young moving group AB Dorados?”.

^ Liu, Michael C. (10 November 2013). “The Extremely Red, Young L Dwarf PSO J318.5338-22.8603: A Free-floating Planetary-mass Analog to Directly Imaged Young Gas-giant Planets “.

^ Gagné, Jonathan (10 March 2014). Very Low Mass and Sub stellar Candidate Members to Nearby, Young Kinematic Groups with Previously Known Signs of Youth”.

^ Záparo Osorio, M. R.; Bodies, N.; Bear, V. J. S.; Martín, E. L.; Ivanov, V. D.; Bay, A.; Boffin, H. M. J.; Music, K.; Minnie, D.; Beaming, J. C. (1 August 2016). “Discovery of a ~250 K Brown Dwarf at 2 PC from the Sun”.

“SIMS J2154-1055: A New Low-gravity L4 Brown Dwarf Candidate Member of the Argus Association”. ^ Gagné, Jonathan (20 July 2015).

“DSS J111010.01+011613.1: A New Planetary-mass T Dwarf Member of the AB Dorados Moving Group”. “The Nearest Isolated Member of the TW Hydra Association is a Giant Planet Analog”.

^ Schneider, Adam C. (21 April 2016). “WISE J114724.10-204021.3: A Free-floating Planetary Mass Member of the TW Hay Association”.

Exoplanet Exploration: Planets Beyond our Solar System. ^ Kim, Hyoun-Woo; Hwang, Kyushu; Gould, Andrew; Yes, Jennifer C.; BYU, Yoon-Hyun; Al brow, Michael D.; Chung, Sunday; Han, Congo; Jung, You Oil; Lee, Chung; Shin, Inge; Shvartzvald, Rossi; Gang, Watching; CIA, Bangkok; Kim, Dong-Jin; Kim, Seung-Lee; Lee, Dong-Joo; Lee, Songbook; Park, Byeong-Gon; Page, Richard W. (14 July 2021).

^ MRO, Przemek; Pole ski, Bradshaw; Gould, Andrew; Pulaski, Andrew; Semi, Akihito; Szymaski, Micha K.; Korzybski, Igor; Pietrukowicz, Pawed; Wazowski, Szymon; Shown, Jan; Black, Krzysztof; Al brow, Michael D.; Chung, Sunday; Han, Congo; Hwang, Kyushu; Jung, You Oil; Kim, Hyoun-Woo; BYU, Yoon-Hyun; Shin, Inge; Shvartzvald, Rossi; Yes, Jennifer C.; Gang, Watching; CIA, Bangkok; Kim, Dong-Jin; Kim, Seung-Lee; Lee, Chung; Lee, Dong-Joo; Lee, Songbook; Park, Byeong-Gon; et al. (2020), “A terrestrial-mass rogue planet candidate detected in the shortest-timescale microlensing event”, The Astrophysical Journal, 903 (1): L11, arrive : 2009.12377, Bib code : 2020ApJ...903L.11M, DOI : 10.3847/2041-8213/abbfad, S2CID 221971000 ^ Bardsley Gagliuffi, Daniella C.; Flaherty, Jacqueline K.; Schneider, Adam C.; Manner, Aaron; Castle, Dan; Colin, Guillaume; Goodman, Sam; Kirkpatrick, J. Davy; Büchner, Marc; Gagné, Jonathan; Logs don, Sarah E. (1 June 2021). “WISE J083011.95+283716.0: A Missing Link Planetary-mass Object”.

^ A free-floating or wide-orbit planet in the microlensing event OGLE-2019-BLG-0551, 2020, arrive : 2003.01126 ^ A free-floating or wide-orbit planet in the microlensing event OGLE-2019-BLG-0551, 2020, arrive : 2003.01126 Look up Interstellar planet in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Free-floating planets.

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