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hiphop-elements.com • View topic - where stars began

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PostPosted: 06/29/01 04:39:00 PM 
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Newly charted orbs could hold key to origin of stars
Astronomers startled by discovery, but say it will need more examination

By KATHY SAWYER
Washington Post
Astronomers reported Wednesday the tentative discovery of a mysterious population of planet-like objects swarming deep in the core of a cluster of 10million stars about 8,500 light-years from Earth.

If observations from the Hubble Space Telescope are confirmed, researchers said, these bodies would be the smallest celestial objects ever detected that are not orbiting a star. The discovery could provide important insights about the earliest stages of star and planet formation, they said.

In theory, the mystery objects could be orphaned planets gravitationally hijacked from parent stars, according to a team led by Kailash Sahu of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. It reports its findings in Thursday's issue of Nature.

However, the researchers estimate these dark, wandering bodies make up as much as 10percent of the mass in the cluster - far too large a proportion to be accounted for by planets.

Sahu and colleagues cautioned the results are so startling they will require additional observations and independent confirmation. Independent astronomers expressed reservations.

Stephen Maran, a spokesman for the American Astronomical Society and author of "Astronomy for Dummies," said, "If it is confirmed, the finding suggests there is something big here that we don't understand. But most `amazing,' seemingly paradigm-shifting findings in science turn out to be wrong."

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