As astronomers discover more and more planets in galaxies far, far away, they are increasingly confronted with a curious subset of orbs that are free-floating and not connected to or orbiting a particular star. Further complicating matters is that within that group, most of what they have found are gassy, Jupiter-sized (read: large), planets; few resemble rockier planets like our own Earth.
First discovered in 2003, these potential free-floating planets are elusive and difficult to detect from the existing ground-based observatories.
Soon, however, a revolutionary new telescope launching in 2025 may be able unlock the secrets of the darkness of space, where sunless worlds may even outnumber the stars. NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will be able to see even more rocky free-floating planets, potentially hundreds as small as Mars, according to research published this August in the Astronomical Journal. These lightless worlds can shine light on how