Astronomers believe they have discovered a rogue planet, apparently wandering the cosmos without a star to orbit. The rogue planet is also just 100 light years from Earth, which is fairly nearby in interstellar terms.
Space reports that the rogue, or orphan planet, was discovered by an international team of astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea and the creatively named Very Large Telescope in Chile. The object has been designated CFBDSIR2149.
The planet is believe to be between four and seven times the size of Jupiter, and its origin is unknown.
“These objects are important, as they can either help us understand more about how planets may be ejected from planetary systems, or how very light objects can arise from the star formation process,” University of Grenoble, France astronomer Philippe Delorme told CBC News. “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.”
Delorme was lead writer on the project.
The orphan planet appears to be a part of a stream of young stars known as the AB Doradus Moving Group. Those stars are between 50 million and 120 million years old and if CFBDSIR2149 is a part of that group, it is likely the same age. Furthermore, the planet’s temperature is thought to be 806 degrees Fahrenheit.
There is still a possibility that CFBDSIR2149 is not a rogue planet or orphaned planet, but rather a brown dwarf. A brown dwarf is an object larger than a planet but too small to become a full fledged star.
It has only been in the last year or so that scientists came to realize that rogue planets are a fairly common occurrence. A 2011 study even suggest that rogue planets may outnumber those like Earth that orbit stars.
The discover is likely of interest to those who subscribe to the Nibiru cataclysm theory. The Nibiru cataclysm is an proposed doomsday scenario wherein Earth will collide, or suffer a near miss, with a rouge planet or other large cosmic body in 2012. Believers in this theory often refer to the orphan planet in question as Planet X, though scientists have repeatedly debunked such claims.