Astronomers Discover First Known "Free-Floating Planet"

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Astronomers Discover First Known "Free-Floating Planet"

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Astronomers have made the first-ever discovery of a planet that wanders among the stars but calls none of them home.

A team of researchers at Université de Montréal have discovered a "free-floating planet," which may not sound like much of a big deal to those of you who, like me, learned everything you know about astronomy from Star Trek. But a big deal it is, as this is in fact the first such planet to be discovered.

"Although theorists had established the existence of this type of very cold and young planet, one had never been observed until today," explained UdeM astrophysicist Étienne Artigau. "The absence of a shining star in the vicinity of this planet enabled the team to study its atmosphere in great detail. This information will in turn enable astronomers to better understand exoplanets that do orbit stars."

The discovery process has been complicated by the fact that astronomers were previously unable to define whether past candidates were large planets or brown dwarf stars. Doctoral student Jonathan Gagné said that several such objects have been identified over the past few years "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," Gagné said. "Brown dwarfs are what we could call failed stars, as they never manage to initiate nuclear reactions in their centers."

But the Montreal team, in conjunction with the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de l'Observatoire de Grenoble in France and using data taken from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, determined that this body, named CFBDSIR2149, is a relatively young 50 to 120 million years old, with a mass of four to seven times that of Jupiter. That's pretty damn huge but still well below the minimum for classification as a brown dwarf, which requires a mass in excess of 13 times that of Jupiter.

The discovery supports theories about the formation of stars and planets, and it also suggests that these wandering bodies may be more common than anyone expected. It may throw a bit of a monkeywrench into the linguistics of astronomy, too: The word "planet" comes from the ancient Greek "astēr planētēs," which translates into "wandering star."

Source: EurekAlert

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Well, either it's planet Mondas and the Cybermen are coming or...

7 MJUP, eh? So it's not much use applying for property yet because gas giants are tricky to get a solid definition of personal land?

I also always enjoy reading about anything concerning the VLT. The Southern Observatory doesn't screw around, they just name it how they see it. I've always said we should call Hubble the Very Faraway Orbiting Telescope.

How did they detect it? What is it radiating?

Edit: Nevermind. Enough IR with a surface temperature of 400 degrees Celsius.

That is not an ordinary planet, my son.
That planet is the tear of a warrior.
A lost soul who has finished his battle somewhere on this planet.
A pitiful soul who could not find his way to the lofty realm where the Great Spirit awaits us all...

Andy Chalk:
"Although theorists had established the existence of this type of very cold and young planet,...

Read about this from another source earlier today. They called it a "ghost planet". Love it!
The planet isn't cold by our usual standards, by the way. It's very young and its surface is estimated to be about 430 °C / 700 Kelvin. Which is very cool for a sun (if classified as a brown dwarf sun) to be sure, but I'm talking from our perspective.

http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.0305

EDIT: Nevermind, the OP's source says 400 °C also. But maybe put it in the actual OP because otherwise people might imagine it to be some sort of frozen over, dark wasteland when it's actually pretty damn hot there for our purposes.

King of Asgaard:
That is not an ordinary planet, my son.
That planet is the tear of a warrior.
A lost soul who has finished his battle somewhere on this planet.
A pitiful soul who could not find his way to the lofty realm where the Great Spirit awaits us all...

But who's gonna carry it's weight?

DVS BSTrD:

King of Asgaard:
That is not an ordinary planet, my son.
That planet is the tear of a warrior.
A lost soul who has finished his battle somewhere on this planet.
A pitiful soul who could not find his way to the lofty realm where the Great Spirit awaits us all...

But who's gonna carry it's weight?

Why, Andy: The Space Samurai, of course!

Is it just me or does that sound like Jenova and/or Sephiroth are on their merry way across stars looking for another planet with life on it?

so is the thing staying still, or is it moving through space? if so, how fast?

Andy Chalk:

A team of researchers at Université de Montréal have discovered a "free-floating planet," which may not sound like much of a big deal to those of you who, like me, learned everything you know about astronomy from Star Trek....

You don't mean....

image

Hip-hip-hoorah! Tally-ho!

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Barret268:
Is it just me or does that sound like Jenova and/or Sephiroth are on their merry way across stars looking for another planet with life on it?

No it's just you.

People refer to Jupiter as a failed star all the time, this is no different, just a bit bigger.

I will call the Planet John Lennon, because who not?

itchcrotch:
so is the thing staying still, or is it moving through space? if so, how fast?

The group of stars that the planet is moving with is going away from us about 40km/s. Which interstellar terms is crawling, its about double the speed of voyager probes.

Skeleon:

...They called it a "ghost planet"...

I have a new theory! It is as follows!

BRILLIANT!

Further examination has lead to the following image:

image

I believe I speak for all of us when I say; "Yup! We're boned!"

This thing needs an actual name now. We could call it something ridiculously cliched like Nomad, or we can call it something awesome, like Bebop or the Escapist.

Skeleon:

Andy Chalk:
"Although theorists had established the existence of this type of very cold and young planet,...

Read about this from another source earlier today. They called it a "ghost planet". Love it!
The planet isn't cold by our usual standards, by the way. It's very young and its surface is estimated to be about 430 °C / 700 Kelvin. Which is very cool for a sun (if classified as a brown dwarf sun) to be sure, but I'm talking from our perspective.

http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.0305

EDIT: Nevermind, the OP's source says 400 °C also. But maybe put it in the actual OP because otherwise people might imagine it to be some sort of frozen over, dark wasteland when it's actually pretty damn hot there for our purposes.

Well, this is astronomy, where things don't mean what you think they mean - in this case a "cold young" planet is roughly 100 million years old, and 400C. At least it's consistent.

For a planet, that's very young, but nowhere near very cold.

I just hope we find a planet that is habitable by humans and other creatures! Cool planet though!

Name it after me...

That's no free-floating planet...!

image

Seriously though, that's pretty cool. I wonder if the lack of sun means it's too cold to support life?

Maybe it's backpacking through the universe, trying to find its true planet self.

Wait, that's a free-loading planet.

The Random One:
Maybe it's backpacking through the universe, trying to find its true planet self.

Wait, that's a free-loading planet.

"Hey mind if I crash in your system? Don't worry brah it will only be for a few hundred million years and I'll stay on the edge"

And then he moves into the goldilock zone and still hasn't left after several billion years.

A wandering planet? That sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie...

CrazyGirl17:
A wandering planet? That sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie...

Science: Turns out it really is that fucking cool.

FalloutJack:
Well, either it's planet Mondas and the Cybermen are coming or...

My thoughts went to Zonama Sekot, personally.

By the way, you win for linking the themesong to Green Slime. I've never actually seen the movie, but it's one of the best trailer songs ever.

Owyn_Merrilin:

FalloutJack:
Well, either it's planet Mondas and the Cybermen are coming or...

My thoughts went to Zonama Sekot, personally.

By the way, you win for linking the themesong to Green Slime. I've never actually seen the movie, but it's one of the best trailer songs ever.

You can actually find the whole movie on Youtube, though I dunno if you wanna with their problems.

OT: I have a third theory about it being Isaac Asimov's Nemesis, which - while I like Asimov's work - I didn't think was a very good book. Still, 'nother thought there, at least.

well if it doesn't have a star to go in front of, how did they see it?

Starik20X6:
That's no free-floating planet...!

image

Seriously though, that's pretty cool. I wonder if the lack of sun means it's too cold to support life?

Unless, ala Star Trek, it has lots and lots magmatic activity going on underneath the surface with many of them opening out onto the surface to create thick pockets of heat!

I'm guessing the core would have to be exceptionally large and active to keep that molten rock hot enough, otherwise the cold of space would simply freeze the whole sucker up.

Then again, this is just a wild and half-baked idea from a guy still waking up. Either way, this is a neat discovery.

Kargathia:
Well, this is astronomy, where things don't mean what you think they mean - in this case a "cold young" planet is roughly 100 million years old, and 400C. At least it's consistent.

Well, no, that is extremely young compared to our planet. But pretty hot compared to it, too. It's cold for a dwarf sun, is what I think they were getting at in the actual article.

We sure it's not that evil thing from Fifth Element? We need Bruce Willis.

Interesting discovery. I wonder if it's possible for it to be captured by a star and fall into a regular orbit. Something more interesting would be what would happen if it collided with another star. I think the most interesting thing would be for it to collide with a large brown dwarf. Bam, galactic collision, instant sun... maybe.

Anyone here reminded of the Jupiter Theft?

Damn it all dont call it a free floating planet!

Call it something awesome like rogue planet, nomad planet, orphan planet, interstellar planet, or even wandering planet.

FalloutJack:

OT: I have a third theory about it being Isaac Asimov's Nemesis, which - while I like Asimov's work - I didn't think was a very good book. Still, 'nother thought there, at least.

Yeah Nemesis wasn't that good, it felt like he was trying to join up all his work more than letting the plot flow. This planet is 20 odd light years away, I thought Nemesis was was less than a light year away.

wfpdk:
well if it doesn't have a star to go in front of, how did they see it?

They can see it directly, largely because there is no star to hide something that small and cold.

Alar:

Unless, ala Star Trek, it has lots and lots magmatic activity going on underneath the surface with many of them opening out onto the surface to create thick pockets of heat!

I'm guessing the core would have to be exceptionally large and active to keep that molten rock hot enough, otherwise the cold of space would simply freeze the whole sucker up.

Then again, this is just a wild and half-baked idea from a guy still waking up. Either way, this is a neat discovery.

Its a gas giant, there is no real surface until you get down deep. Down there you get exotic things like water ice at 4000C and seas of hydrogen metal. The heat in this case come from the fusion, the core is hot enough to fuse tritium but not normal hydrogen.

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