'Orphan,' 'Rogue' Starless Planet Discovered Floating Through Space, Astronomers Say
By Maria Vultaggio | November 16, 2012 10:45 AM EST
Astronomers say they have discovered a potential “rogue” or “orphan” planet, Space.com reports.
The free-floating object has been named CFBDSIR2149 and is likely a gas giant that could be four to seven times larger than Jupiter, scientists said Wednesday. It may have been somehow booted out of its own solar system.
"If this little object is a planet that has been ejected from its native system, it conjures up the striking image of orphaned worlds, drifting in the emptiness of space," study leader Philippe Delorme, of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble in France, said in a statement.
The floating object was found among a stream of young stars called the AB Doradus moving group.
Scientists believe there’s a slight chance CFBDSIR2149 might be a brown dwarf.
A brown dwarf is a strange object that is larger than a planet but not big enough to cause the internal nuclear fusion reactions to become a full-fledged star. CFBDSIR2149 needs to be studied further.
"We need new observations to confirm that this object belongs to the AB Doradus moving group," Delorme told Space.com via email. "With a good distance measurement and a more accurate proper motion, we will be able to increase (or decrease) the probability that it is indeed a planet."
"We now know that such massive planets are rare and that Neptunes or Earth-mass planets are much more common," Delorme said. "We also know that massive objects are more difficult to eject [from solar systems] than light ones. If you follow the rationale, you deduce that ejected exo-Neptunes and ejected exo-Earths should be much more common than objects like CFBDSIR2149."
Researchers are excited to have a starless planet so relatively close to Earth, 100 light-years away.
"This object is a really easy-to-study prototype of the 'normal' giant planets we hope to discover and study with the upcoming generation of direct-imaging instruments," Delorme said. "It will help to improve our forecast of these objects' luminosity and hence help us discover them and, once discovered, it will help us understand the physics of their atmospheres."
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Prince Harry & Camilla Thurlow Getting Serious, St. Tropez Holiday Before The Prince’s 30th Birthday [PHOTOS]
- Prince William & Kate Middleton Caught Flirting In A Countryside Dinner Date [PHOTOS]
- UEFA Champions League Draw Result and Replay: Arsenal Joins Toughest Group, Cristiano Ronaldo Named Best Player In Europe [PHOTOS and VIDEO]
- Prince William & Kate Middleton Boards London Train in Casual Disguise, Royal Couple’s Incognito Plan A Huge Hit [PHOTOS]
Join the Conversation
- UFO Sighting in Australia: A Mysterious 'Flying' Object With Changing Colors Observed[Watch Video]
- Volcano Eruption In Iceland: Lava Erupts More Than 50 Meters High, Prompts Aviation Alert [Video]
- Stargazing: Saturn, Moon and Mars Meet Up Last August 31
- Walking Fish Reveal How Our Ancestors Evolved Onto Land (Watch Video)
- Bad Memories Can be Changed into Good Ones, Say Scientists
- Apple iPhone 6 Actual Release Date after September 9 Confirmed 128GB Variant with New Resolution
- Pricey iPhone 6 on Release Date Likely but with 3X Retina Resolution & Mobile Payment Service – Reports
- Google Nexus 8 Confirmed as HTC T1 aka Volantis/Flounder with Freshly-Leaked Specs & Features – Reports
- Moto G2 Release Roundup: Specs, Pricing, and Release Date Details
- PlayStation 4 Killing Xbox One Costing Microsoft Millions But It's Fine
- Nexus 6 on Release Date Confirmed with Phablet-Size Display as FCC Filing Hints of 5.9-Inch Screen
- Europe, US Next on ISIS’ Hit List, Says Saudi King; Seized ISIS Laptop Reveals Terrifying Bio-Warfare Plans