Scientists using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have made a groundbreaking discovery in the Trapezium cluster of the Orion nebula. They have found dozens of planet-like objects, now dubbed Jupiter Mass Binary Objects (JuMBOs), floating freely in space. These JuMBOs, roughly the size of Jupiter, are gravitationally bound to each other, something that goes against known formation mechanisms.
The origin of these mysterious objects has puzzled scientists, but understanding their existence could shed light on the formation of stars and planets. It is believed that star-forming environments may contain rogue exoplanets that have become unmoored from their stars due to close proximity with other stars.
This is the first time JuMBOs have been detected in the Orion nebula, although planet-mass objects have been spotted before in this region. The JWST’s infrared light-detecting capabilities enabled scientists to study these small objects against the bright background of the Orion nebula.
The discovery poses a challenge to existing physics theories since these objects are even smaller than what was previously predicted to be possible. The JuMBOs, with ages of around a million years, have temperatures of approximately 1000 Kelvin and varying orbital separations ranging from 25 to 390 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.
Detailed analysis of their light reveals the presence of water vapor, carbon monoxide, and methane. The main enigma lies in the fact that these JuMBOs exist in pairs, which contradicts our current understanding of star formation. Stars typically form when a clump of material collapses under gravity and forms a disk feeding into the star, but the theoretical lower mass limit for an object forming through this mechanism is about three times the mass of Jupiter.
It remains unclear how these pairs of planets would remain gravitationally bound together. While baby planets can be easily expelled from their systems, the pairing phenomenon is a new challenge. Scientists speculate that it could be the result of a new and previously unknown formation mechanism or a combination of existing scenarios.
The study detailing the discovery of JuMBOs has been submitted to the prestigious journal Nature and is currently available on the preprint server arXiv.org. This groundbreaking research opens up new avenues of exploration and raises important questions about our current understanding of the universe. With further study and advancements in technology, we may soon unravel the mysteries surrounding these Jupiter Mass Binary Objects.