The planets in our solar system get along with each other pretty well. But sometimes when multiple planets orbit the same star, there’s a confrontation – that is, the gravity of one planet interferes with another’s. In this way, smaller ones can get kicked out, left to float in the dark without a star to go around.
These “lonely planets” represent an entirely new category of planets, and are perhaps more numerous in our galaxy than stars, scientists report Wednesday in the journal Nature.
"It gives us a good clue about how planet formation works. It suggests that there's a lot of violent encounters between planets near the end of the planet formation process," said David Bennett, astronomer at the University of Notre Dame.
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