“Ping-Pong” Planets Can Bounce From Star to Star

A planet in a two-star, or binary system can end up in a gravitational ping-pong match that can last for millenia before the planet gets ejected into interstellar space, a new study suggests.

Scientists had previously theorized that gravitational interactions among multiple planets orbiting a star can sometimes cause a world to get ejected from its system, leaving the rogue planet to wander alone.

Now a complex set of computer simulations shows that certain types of binary star systems might not let go of wayward worlds so easily.

Instead, when a planet gets tossed out by its binary parent, the world can bounce over to the stellar companion. The hapless planet then begins to orbit wildly, only to end up being tossed back to the original star.

This gravitational bouncing can go on for as long as a million years, until ultimately the planet gets flung completely out of the binary system. Learn more here.

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