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Many wandering alien worlds, which were ejected from the solar systems in which they formed, likely find new homes with different suns, according to the study. The finding could explain why some alien planets orbit extremely far from their stars, researchers said.
Captured planets generally end up hundreds or thousands of times farther from their new stars than Earth is from the sun. They're also likely to have orbits that are tilted relative to any "native" planets, and they may even revolve around their stars "backward," researchers said.
Perhaps the best evidence to date in support of planetary capture comes from the 2006 discovery of two huge planets — 14 and 7 times more massive than Jupiter — orbiting each other without a star.
"There's no evidence that the sun captured a planet," Perets said. "We can rule out large planets. But there's a non-zero chance that a small world might lurk on the fringes of our solar system."