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Deepest-Ever Image of Orion Nebula Reveals Abundance of Earth-Sized Objects

Behind the dust and gas covering the Orion hide not just stars, but unexplained planetary objects.

Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) took an image of the Orion nebula, and it revealed more than what they have expected. The image showed a plethora of planet-sized objects, which makes finding Earth-like worlds more likely.

The astronomers used the ESO’s Very Large Telescope, called the HAWK-I infrared instrument. The details revealed in the image give astronomers hope that the next generation of ground-based telescopes, such as the he $1.3 billion European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), will pave the way for the discovery of a host of new Earth-sized planets. Ultimately, this could provide notable insights into the evolution and history of our own world.

Credit: H. Drass/AFP/Getty Images
Credit: ESO

However, the planets found in the picture are unlikely to be habitable, as they do not orbit stars. These objects are floating freely in space. Scientists believe that they were probably pulled out of their home solar systems by the gravitational forces in Orion, or it is possible that they formed in isolation as the nebula collapsed into stars.

Free floating objects larger than planets but smaller than stars were also captured in the image. These are like larger versions of planets akin to Jupiter, but they are floating in space. Ultimately, the image showed about ten times as many brown dwarfs and planetary-mass objects than were previously known.

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