Milky Way spewing out planet-size ‘spitballs’

New York: When a star comes close to the black hole only to be ripped apart, the outward gas streamer gathers itself into planet-size objects which are then flung across the galaxy in a game of cosmic ‘spitball’, new research has revealed.

The team from Harvard University noted that the closest of these planet-mass objects might be within a few hundred light-years of Earth with a weight somewhere between Neptune and several Jupiters.

“A single shredded star can form hundreds of these planet-mass objects. We wondered: Where do they end up? How close do they come to us? We developed a computer code to answer those questions,” said lead author Eden Girma.

These planet-size objects glow from the heat of its formation and are very different from a typical planet because they made of star-stuff.

“It takes only a day for the black hole to shred the star and only about a year for the resulting fragments to pull themselves back together,” said the study presented at the conference of American Astronomical Society recently.

Almost 95 per cent of the planet-mass objects will leave the galaxy entirely due to their speeds of about 10,000 km per second. It would take about a million years for one of these objects to reach Earth’s neighborhood.

“Since most other galaxies also have giant black holes at their cores, it is likely that the same process is at work in them,” Girma added.