Where do double orphan planets come from

Recently, the James Webb Space Telescope has discovered many double orphan planets in the constellation Orion. These binary objects with masses comparable to Jupiter’s float freely in space far from any star. Scientists were able to explain how they were formed.

Як утворюються подвійні планети-сироти
How double orphan planets come to existence. Source: phys.org

Orphan planets around us

Recently, scientists have been able to explain where double orphan planets come from in the Universe. This question arose from observations made by the James Webb Space Telescope since last summer. During this time, it was able to take a closer look at the Orion Nebula.

Orphan planets are objects with masses smaller even than those of brown dwarfs, which are far away from any star and float freely in space. They had been found in the Orion Nebula even before these later discoveries of double orphans.

However, now James Webb joined the research and was able to discover many more. In total, it observed 582 objects that fall under the definition of “orphan planets”. It turned out that 42 of them, or about 9 per cent of the total number, were double.

Scientists solve the mystery

The problem with double orphan planets is the question of how they were formed. For binary stars, it doesn’t exist, because the formation of their pairs by the condensation of a gas and dust cloud is common. However, planets usually form in much denser protoplanetary discs surrounding newborn stars. That is why most of them have their own host.

Scientists are not 100 per cent sure how orphan planets can form. In recent years, there have been suggestions that they can still be formed by the same mechanism as stars. In this case, there is no problem with their double systems. But this theory is still considered unproven.

However, no one doubts that orphan planets can form as a result of the ejection of gas giants from young systems. This happens under the influence of gravitational interaction. However, no one can explain how pairs of bodies floating freely in space can be formed.

In the new study, scientists considered several scenarios of how such a number of double orphan planets could have formed and concluded that they could not have been formed as a result of the interaction of two previously unrelated bodies. Only the birth of pairs directly from a gas and dust cloud or the ejection of gas giants together with massive satellites could have created such a sample.

Source: phys.org