An Earth-size planet is careening untethered through the galaxy, scientists find

Earth orbits the sun like a ship sailing in circles around its anchor. But what if someone — or something — cut that ship loose? Unbound from any star or solar system, what would become of a tiny world flying helplessly and heedlessly through interstellar space? What happens when a planet goes rogue?

Scientists suspect that billions of free-floating or “rogue” planets may exist in the Milky Way, but so far only a handful of candidates have turned up among the 4,000-or-so worlds discovered beyond our solar system. Most of these potential rogue planets appear to be enormous, measuring anywhere from two to 40 times the mass of Jupiter (one Jupiter is equivalent to about 300 Earths). But now, astronomers believe they’ve detected a rogue world like no other: a tiny, free-floating planet, roughly the mass of Earth, gallivanting through the gut of the Milky Way.

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