Our Galaxy May Hold Trillions of Wandering Planets

This artist’s conception illustrates a Jupiter-like planet alone in the dark of space, floating freely without a parent star.

Our Galaxy May Hold Trillions of Wandering Planets

In 2012, a discovery blew my mind: a new estimate of the number of planets in our galaxy, somewhere in the region of 100 to 200 billion. It’s an unfathomable number. Since then, we’ve lived in a golden age of exoplanet exploration. nasa has confirmed the existence of over 5,000 planets outside our solar system, and the James Webb Space Telescope has even caught one on camera.

Yet a new study claims we’ve been overlooking the most common type of planet in our galaxy.

These are “rogue” planets, which don’t orbit any star, but instead wander the blackness of space. These rogue planets are about six times more common than planets orbiting stars.

Scientists from nasa and Japan’s Osaka university used research from the nine-year-long Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (moa) survey at the Mount John University Observatory in New Zealand. They concluded in a couple of papers submitted recently for peer review that for every star in the galaxy, there are around 20 rogue planets.

They reached this conclusion by looking at gravitational microlensing. Gravity bends light, so massive objects like black holes, galaxies and even planets can act like giant glass lenses, distorting the light coming from objects behind them. It’s why galaxies can look twisted in photographs.

Lensing from planets is much less spectacular, but they can still create a brief spike in the brightness of a distant star, if lined up perfectly. A short nasa video shows the way microlensing can cause a copy of a star to briefly appear, as well as its brightness to change:

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2027, will be able to observe rogue planets in even more detail.

It’s another mind-expanding revelation about the amount of “stuff” out there. And it means that the closest exoplanet to Earth is probably closer than the nearest star.

It also reminded me of Jude 13. Here God compares angels and men who fall away from God’s truth to “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”

As Herbert W. Armstrong explained in his free book The Incredible Human Potential, God created angels, and then men, to fill the universe with beauty and light. The Bible is full of scriptures describing that vision. Isaiah 45:18 says God created the heavens and the Earth “not in vain” and that “he formed it to be inhabited.” That’s not just the Earth—God created the universe and all its distant planets to be inhabited too. In Isaiah 51:16, God says that He will “plant the heavens.”

The angels had the potential to beautify the universe. But they “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation” (Jude 6). They wandered from God’s government and God’s plan for them—and have no potential as a result.

“Jude puts it all into perspective with this history,” writes Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his booklet on Jude. “Look at what the angels lost! They had the opportunity to beautify the Earth and to administer God’s law—and then do the same to the whole universe! When you implement God’s law, you always create beauty, because God is doing it through you.”

That’s what they could have done if they had remained in their lawful orbit, submitting themselves to God and reflecting His glory. Instead, they have only darkness. What can be done with a wandering exoplanet? Scientists believe that these are mostly Earth-like planets that were somehow flung off from their hosts system. Without the light and heat of the sun, it’s hard to see any potential for them.

The angels lost their potential, which is now offered to man.

Hebrews 2:8 tells us that “all things” will be put in subjection to man. The Moffatt translation renders “all things” in Hebrews 1 as “the universe.” The planets in our galaxy have the potential to be made habitable and filled with life.

“Look at your potential!” writes Mr. Flurry. “Jude talks about stars to help us think in universe terms, and of all that God is offering us if we keep ourselves within a lawful orbit. We’ll be given the authority to rule over those angelic stars!”

God aims to fill this galaxy and universe with life. That means life orbiting billions of stars. And the trillions of wandering planets? God hasn’t revealed their fate—but unlike the angels, they could possibly be restored to orbits around stars and have their potential restored.

These rogue planets expand our vision of what God has to offer us out in the universe. But they also come with a powerful warning about what can happen to our potential if we refuse the orbit outlined by His law and government.

That warning explains the many problems we see in the world around us. God wants to give us the universe. But He can only do so once we submit to Him and His law—and not while we’re wandering our own way. And so God corrects in love, allowing troubles to escalate, until humanity reaches the point where it will listen.

What God is offering “is fabulous beyond words to illustrate,” writes Mr. Flurry. “But we can go out of orbit like the ‘wandering stars.’ And our potential is so much greater. We must submit to God’s law and government to keep us in our spiritual orbit. If we fail, it is a far worse tragedy than that of the fallen angels! If we succeed, we are destined to rule over them as incorruptible, immortal members of the God Family forever.”

To learn more about this potential and to understand God’s purpose in creating man and this whole universe, read our free book The Incredible Human Potential.