Scientists recently discovered a collection of unidentifiable objects in the Orion Nebula. This group of objects cannot be grouped as planets because they do not orbit around a parent star, but their composition and size suggest that they are not stars either. The objects photographed appeared to travel in pairs, and scientists observed approximately 40 pairs of these objects in the captured photo.
The Orion Nebula, otherwise known as M42, is the largest star-forming region near Earth. This nebula is visible to the naked eye on Earth, appearing as a smudge in the sky. To find it, one might look for the constellation of Orion. The nebula forms a part of Orion’s sword as it hangs from his belt. The Orion Nebula is also a star nursery, and is generally considered to be one of the most photogenic.
The photos of the newly discovered objects, named Jupiter-mass binary objects (JuMBOs), were taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. These objects were named for their proximity in size to Jupiter, and for their state of floating independently in space.
The James Webb Space Telescope debuted in December 2021 and was intended as a replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope. Equipped with more advanced technology than Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope’s high-resolution and high-sensitivity instruments allow it to more accurately photograph objects that are either too old or too distant for the Hubble Space Telescope to successfully capture.
Since its debut, the James Webb Space Telescope has made a variety of discoveries, including finding carbon on the surface of one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, photographing the Orion Nebula’s Red Finger and capturing the most detailed image of the Pillars of Creation to date.
The discovery of JuMBOs is the James Webb Space Telescope’s most recent accomplishment. The objects are too small to be stars, and defy all currently known theories regarding planets and stars—it should be impossible for objects of this size to form through the process that creates stars.
The European Space Agency has proposed two theories regarding the creation of the JuMBOs: The objects were formed in nebular regions that lacked materials to create complete stars, as all of the objects appear to lack a parent star, or they may have been planets that initially formed around a parent star, but were later ejected from orbit due to possible gravitational interactions. Currently, the latter theory is favored, but scientists are still exploring possible explanations.
There have been cases where single planets have been ejected from their solar system, and gas physics claim that objects with the mass of Jupiter cannot reasonably be created on their own. However, this theory still does not explain why the JuMBOs appear to travel in pairs.
The general findings have yet to be peer-reviewed or studied further, but the initial discovery has excited and baffled the scientific community, proving the efficacy of the James Webb Space Telescope as a means of expanding upon astrophysical studies.