Planet systems: Even free exoplanets collect companions

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Planet systems: Even free exoplanets collect companions
Planet systems: Even free exoplanets collect companions
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Free exoplanets also collect companions

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A system of planetary companions can also form around exoplanets that are not self-radiating and not bound to a central star. Such so-called planemos (planetary mass object s) weigh less than brown dwarfs with less than 13 Jupiter masses and as interstellar loners do not orbit the sun but the center of the Milky Way. Now, for the first time, scientists at the European Southern Observatory have discovered evidence of extensive dust and gas clouds surrounding at least two of the six planemos studied. Such protoplanetary accretion disks provide material for the formation of planets and moons around young stars. An accretion of matter clouds to companions is also quite possible around the planemos, all of which are at least five times more massive than Jupiter.

The researchers led by Ray Jayawardhana also recognized that the brown dwarf 2M1207, which was discovered two years ago and is 170 light years away, is not only orbited by a protoplanetary disk, but also by an eight Jupiter-mass companion, which in turn is also orbited by surrounded by a dust-gas envelope. According to Jayawardhana, it is quite possible that over time further smaller planets and asteroids will form around both partners of the binary system. "The variety of worlds out there," says the researcher, "is really remarkable."

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