The news just broke that a team of researchers working with the University of Montreal managed to find the first so-called “homeless planet” ever known to science.
In case anyone was wondering what makes this particular planet a homeless one, the explanation is quite simple: the planet is not in any way gravitationally linked to a star. More precisely, it spends all of its time floating aimlessly through space.
Because it does not orbit a star, the planet does not shine, and this gives scientists hope that they can study its atmosphere in further detail and then draw conclusions regarding the behavior and the make-up of planets that do hang around stars.
“Although theorists had established the existence of this type of very cold and young planet, one had never been observed until today,” astrophysicist Étienne Artigau explains.
“Over the past few years, several objects of this type have been identified, but their existence could not be established without scientific confirmation of their age. Astronomers weren't sure whether to categorize them as planets or as Brown dwarfs,” doctoral student of physics Jonathan Gagné goes on to add.
For those unaware, Brown dwarfs are basically failed stars, meaning that their centers never got to experience any nuclear reactions.
The official name for this planet is CFBDSIR2149, and the researchers who have found it argue that it is in fact part and parcel of a group of about 30 young stars known as the AB Doradus Moving Group, Eurek! Alert explains.
Investigations have shown that this planet is about 50-120 million years old, that its temperature is about 400 degrees Celsius (752 degrees Fahrenheit) and that it weighs four-seven times more than Jupiter.
“This object was discovered during a scan that covered the equivalent of 1000 times the surface of the full moon. We observed hundreds of millions of stars and planets, but we only found one homeless planet in our neighborhood,” Étienne Artigau said.