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A 'JuMBO' Discovery

(NASA/ESA/CSA/MCCAUGHREAN & PEARSON) At just 1,400 light-years from Earth, the Orion Nebula, M42, is visible to the naked eye as a faint smudge.

Dozens of pairs of free-floating, Jupiter-sized objects were identified in the nearby Orion Nebula in what scientists are describing as a never-before-seen celestial body unexplained by current theories of planet formation. Composite images of the phenomenon—captured by the James Webb Space Telescope—were released concurrently with studies that have not yet been peer-reviewed.

The 150 objects, located roughly 1,300 light-years away within the "sword" of the Orion constellation, don't meet current definitions for any celestial category. Although they are the size of planets, they don't orbit a star; instead, many of them are in binary orbit, where each is gravitationally bound to the other. Their novelty prompted astronomers to carve out a new category: Jupiter Mass Binary Objects, or JuMBOs, indicating their singular combination of planetary mass and starless orbit.

The new phenomenon challenges current frameworks explaining how stars and planets form within nebula, with astrophysicists claiming such objects should not exist. Read the studies here.

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