Astronomers have seen this kind of accretion disk around planets that orbit small stars, but it has never been found around a free-floater before, researchers reported last year at a workshop on cool stars and the sun.
That simple description set off a heated debate about whether the free-floaters should be bestowed planethood.
is the butterfly fern (Salvia auriculata).
Free-floater systems have already demonstrated commercial viability and military utility as communications platforms.
Other than the continual constellation replenishment necessary to ensure persistent coverage, the biggest drawback to most military free-floater concepts would seem to be that their payloads generally cannot be recovered.
com/science/astronomers-say-theyve-spotted-lonesome-planet-without-sun-8C11366309) similar free-floaters
have been spotted in the past but they were not easily identified if they were just falling stars or orphaned planets.
Scientists think that most them may have formed like stars, in isolation from contracting gas clouds, but some of the puniest free-floaters
may have formed like planets around a star and later been ejected.
aren't technically planets because they don't orbit a star.
Unlike the TMR-1C fiasco, however, evidence is accumulating that some of these free-floaters indeed have masses as low as 3 Jupiters, which places them firmly in the planetary-mass regime.
They found that many very cool free-floaters in the Upper Scorpius Association exhibit narrow spectral lines, which indicates atmospheric pressure that one would expect in a planetary-mass object's relatively low-gravity environment (S&T: October 2004, page 20).
That would imply that the least massive of the free-floaters
could not have formed as stars do.
If the objects are as abundant in other clusters, the number of free-floaters
dispersed through the Milky Way could rival the number of stars.