The James Webb Space Telescope has discovered dozens of seemingly physics-breaking rogue objects floating through space in pairs, and scientists aren’t sure how they can exist.
Freely drifting through the Orion Nebula, the Jupiter-mass binary objects, or “JuMBOs” exist in 42 pairs. Each object orbits its partner at up to 390 times the distance between Earth and the sun.
The JuMBOs are too small to be stars, but as they exist in pairs, they are unlikely to be rogue planets ejected from solar systems. Yet somehow they still formed. The researchers published their findings Oct. 2 on the preprint database arXiv
and have not yet been peer-reviewed.
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“How pairs of young planets can be ejected simultaneously and remain bound, albeit weakly at relatively wide separations, remains quite unclear,” the researchers wrote in the paper. They suggest that “perhaps a new, quite separate formation mechanism,” could be responsible for the odd couples’ creation.
The rogue pairs are drifting through the Orion Nebula, a star-forming region roughly 1,344 light-years from Earth that features plumes of stormy gas pierced by beams of starlight. Observations from ground-based telescopes had previously alerted the researchers that other mysterious objects were also lurking in the gas cloud. Then, follow-up observations made with the James Webb Space Telescope finally spotted them.
The researchers’ analysis revealed the strange objects are gas giants that are roughly a million years old with temperatures around 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit (700 degrees Celsius). Their billowing cloaks primarily consist of carbon monoxide, methane and steam.
Yet what truly baffled the astronomers is that many of the objects came in pairs.
Stars can take tens of millions of years to transform from collapsing clouds of cooling dust and gas to gently glowing protostars, before eventually…