We’ve heard about the potentially life-supporting planets around other stars, in some cases sliding neatly into the habitable zones of red dwarfs. But there’s another kind of planet out there, one you probably wouldn’t think could harbor life: Rogue planets.
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and his team at the University of Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology have released new research indicating that rogue planets, or planets that do not orbit a star, might sometimes swoop through solar systems and collect “dust containing organic compounds.”
Then, it’s onward to the next system, where it’s possible these “contaminated” rogue planets could spread life.
According to Universe Today, “it’s been suggested there are as much as 100,000 times more rogue planets than stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone.”
The odds are high, then, that organic compounds are shared between systems.
Of course, life couldn’t thrive on these planets as they make their journeys from system to system; it’d be much too cold without a star nearby (as far as we know). But like an interplanetary UPS, they could transport the building blocks of life throughout the galaxy, just as comets and asteroids have been theorized to do.
The boundaries of our search for extraterrestrial life continue to expand.
Image courtesy NASA, ESA, J. Walsh (ST-ECF), and ESO.