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Though scientists have always theorized about the possibility of a 'homeless planet' (one that is wandering around the Universe without being pulled by the gravity of a star), they had never been able to confirm the existence of one, until the discovery of this celestial body that astronomers are calling CFBDSIR2149.
The discovery, revealed in a scientific paper released on Wednesday November 14th, was made by a team of astrophysicists led by University of Montreal's Itienne Artigau using data provided by two powerful telescopes - The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. While CFBDSIR2149, which is located about 100 light years away from Earth is hanging out with a group of very young stars known as the AB Doradus Moving Group, it is not orbiting any of them!
Based on the assumption that CFBDSIR2149 sports the same origins as its companions, scientists estimate that it is about 50-120 million years old, between four to seven times bigger than Jupiter and has a temperature of 860°F (430°C).
Given that objects sporting a mass of less than 13 times that of Jupiter are classified as planets as opposed to brown dwarfs, researchers are almost positive that CFBDSIR2149 is the first starless planet found.
What they are still not sure about is if these kind of errant planets are stand-alone celestial formations or the result of a normal planet being kicked out of its solar system.
While finding a planet they have been theorizing about for years is exciting, what is even more so is the fact that the lack of a star means that the planet has no light being reflected from its atmosphere. This will allow astronomers to study the CFBDSIR2149's atmosphere much more clearly with the help of infrared telescopes, which in turn, will help them gain a better understanding of planets that do orbit their stars.
Though scientists are now even more convinced that there are many more 'homeless' planets floating around, finding them is not going to be easy. After all, it took them over the decade of scanning through millions of stars to locate this one!
Resources: dailymail.co.uk, blogs.discoverymagazine.com