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27 November 2013 12:59 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The new head of the National Center for Science Education promises to "fight the good fight" against attacks on...
Analyses of the H7N9 strains isolated from four new cases show that the virus is evolving rapidly, heightening anxiety...
In 2009, Jack Szostak shared a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering the role of telomeres, the end bits of...
Science has exposed a thriving academic black market in China involving shady agencies, corrupt scientists, and...
Paper-selling agencies flourish in the aura of reputable businesses. For some scientists, it may be difficult to tell...
Data collected by satellites and floating probes have chronicled a 2-decade rise in the temperature and thickness of a...
Cholesterol, the artery-clogging molecule that contributes to cardiovascular disease, has another nasty trick up its...
Until recently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) kept its plans for its $70 million portion of the...
- 27 November 2013 12:59 pm , Vol. 342 , #6162
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ScienceShot: Why So Many Homeless Planets?
17 January 2012 12:50 pm
Last year, astronomers reported that extrasolar planets may outnumber stars in our galaxy by almost a two-to-one margin, and that three-quarters of these worlds are likely to be free-floaters, not bound to any star. Scientists speculated that many of these homeless planets were slung out of their parent solar systems as a result of gravitationally unstable orbits. But new computer simulations blame more exotic causes. One possibility is stars literally pushing the planets into interstellar space after the suns reach the end of their normal hydrogen-burning lives and begin expanding into red giants. Other scenarios involve gravitational perturbations, either caused by passing stars, a solar system entering and exiting our galaxy's gravitationally dense spiral arms, or even via interactions with dense molecular clouds. But the most likely reason, researchers report in a paper accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is that these extrasolar planets would simply be ejected by the gravitational forces that result when their parent stars get jostled about inside tightly-packed star clusters—the same clusters in which most stars are thought to be formed.
See more ScienceShots.