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Astrophysicists crack Jumbo code: birth of free-floating binary giants revealed | Scientific news

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A groundbreaking study introduces a compelling model for the formation of recently discovered ‘free-floating’ planets known as Jupiter-mass Binary Objects (JuMBOs). These mysterious JuMBOs appear to orbit each other as they float freely through space, untethered to any star. The study investigates how interactions within dense star clusters can lead to the ejection of giant planets that remain gravitationally bound together.

Researchers have introduced a theoretical process that could create free-floating giant binary planets. (Image credit: UNLV).

Essentials

  • Encounters with stars in dense clusters can spontaneously eject pairs of giant planets.
  • This finding significantly changes our perception of planetary dynamics and the diversity of planetary systems in the universe.
  • The research suggests that such events are more common in densely populated star clusters.

New Delhi: The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed a potential new class of candidate giant planets floating freely through the cosmos, without any gravitational bond to a host star. These new exoplanet candidates are known as Jupiter-mass binary objects, or JuMBOs. These binary systems challenge conventional theories of how planetary systems form and evolve. However, a new study puts forward a compelling model for the formation of JuMBOs.

Researchers from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and Stony Brook University used techniques known as direct N-body simulations to investigate how interactions within dense star clusters can lead to the ejection of giant planets, which then remain gravitationally bound together . The research fills a crucial gap in the conventional understanding of star formation.

Star clusters are open or closed and consist of up to a million stars bound together by gravity. Open star clusters tend to drift apart over time, while the stars in globular clusters stay together for billions of years. These globular clusters have a roughly spherical shape, with the density of stars increasing towards the centers. All stars in a cluster are born around the same time, from the same molecular cloud or stellar nursery.

There may be many more JuMBOs waiting to be discovered

An article describing the findings was published in Nature Astronomy. The study’s corresponding author, Yihan Wang, said: “Our simulations show that stellar encounters can spontaneously remove pairs of giant planets from their parent systems, causing them to orbit each other in space. These findings could significantly change our perception of planetary dynamics and the diversity of planetary systems in our universe.”

The research suggests that the processes that lead to the ejection of binary pairs of giant planets are more likely to occur in densely populated star clusters, indicating that these types of systems are much more common than previously thought. The James Webb Space Telescope continues to advance our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution.