Astronomers have discovered as many as 170 Jupiter-sized planets in a group 420 light-years from Earth, the largest of their kind discovered so far. These planets lurk in the dark universe without a star lighting them, and are usually impossible to photograph.
According to the British newspaper, “Daily Mail”, astronomers from the Astrophysics laboratories de Bordeaux in France revealed that they have taken advantage of the fact that a few million years after their formation, these giant gaseous worlds are still hot enough to glow, making them detectable.
Scientists used several observatories, including the Very Large European Southern Observatory (VLT) in Chile, to make their discovery.
“We didn’t know how many planets to expect and we’re excited to find many,” study researcher Nuria Merritt-Roig explained, adding that they were in the star-forming region of the higher constellations Scorpios.
The team examined data spanning 20 years, from ground and space telescopes, to find all of these planets, and measured the precise motions, colors and luminosity of tens of millions of sources across a large expanse of sky.
These measurements allowed for the safe identification of the faintest objects in this region, and most of the data came from ESO-controlled observatories, including the Very Large Telescope (VLT).
It relied on other instruments including the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) and the MPG/ESO 2.2 Telescope.
The team also used the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, which was launched to precisely measure the positions, distances and motions of stars, to identify areas to be studied.
And their findings suggest there could be more of these starless planets that we haven’t yet discovered.
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