Free-range planet discovered wandering through space


Artist’s rendering of planet CFBDSIR2149 (photo: ESO/L. Calçada/P. Delorme/Nick Risinger )

Astronomers have discovered an alien planet, CFBDSIR2149, that drifts idly through space. CFBDSIR2149, let’s call it “Bob” for short, is a newly discovered object 100 light-years from Earth and it is believed to be an orphaned planet. This poor little guy (he’s actually not so little being four to seven times larger than Jupiter) floats through space with no host star to keep it in one place. Hmm, orphan or bachelor?

It may have been kicked out of its native system and is now merely a drifter wandering here and there, wherever the cosmic winds take it. It is believed to be a gas giant like Jupiter and it is relatively close (in space terms) to Earth. It may be part of a group called AB Doradus group which formed between 50 million and 120 million years ago. They believe that within the gas giant there is a planet and that its temperature may be on average 806 degrees Fahrenheit. There is a chance that “Bob” is not a planet but instead a brown dwarf. A brown dwarf is an object that is too big to be a planet but not quite a star. “Bob” was found by Philippe Delorme, of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble in France. Him and his team discovered “Bob” using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and then examined its properties using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Free-range alien planets are not as incredible as they sound. Astronomers have spotted several such planets in the last year or two and scientists now think that having a host star like Earth does is actually the oddball and free-range is the norm. However, gas giants such as “Bob” may be the minority in the group.   Our galaxy alone could possible contain billions of such planets. Because there is no host star nearby future telescopes should be able to learn quite a bit about CFBDSIR2149 since they won’t have to contend with the glare that comes with a host star.