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Heavenly Wonders: Free-Floating Celestial Bodies have Scientists Questioning Planetary TheoriesAired October 6, 2000 - 2:49 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now some space news for you: Some free-floating celestial wonders have scientists wondering about planetary theories long taken for granted. Astronomers have found 18 planet-sized gas balls drifting free some 1200 light years from Earth.
What is going on out there? Here is CNN's Jim Hill?.
JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a starry night, the constellation Orion can be seen easily with the naked eye. But deep within this star formation, researchers have found something unusual. What appears to be the only photographic evidence of rogue planets, floating freely outside our solar system.
MARIA ROSA ZAPATERO-OSORIO, CALIF. INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: It is telling us that this objects are very close to planets, much closer to planets than to a star.
HILL: Planets are thought to form as clouds of matter surrounding a star collapsed from their own gravity, creating spheres that continue orbiting the mother star. This would explain the Earth and the eight other planets in our solar system orbiting the sun.
But the reddish, planet-like spheres reported in the journal, "Science," by a team of Spanish, German and American researchers appear to be floating without such an orbit. Essentially, planets without a sun.
ZAPATERO-OSORIO: This is one property of these objects that breaks the definition of a traditional planet.
HILL: Researchers used telescopes in Hawaii, Spain and the Canary Islands to analyze the 18 objects and measure the range of light emitted from them. This is the first time images of such bodies have been captured.
CHARLES BEICHMAN, JET PROPULSION LABORATORY: We'll have the knowledge base from which to assess the importance of these and be along the path to finding out how planets like our own Earth actually formed and what their long-term evolution will be.
HILL: If the research is accurate, the objects have planet-like temperatures, right around freezing.
(on camera): Because the objects meet some definitions of a planet, but not others, the researchers say their discovery could also be a first step in redefining what a planet is.
Jim Hill, CNN, Los Angeles.
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