A team of French and Canadian astronomers has spotted what looks to be a “rogue planet,” free-floating through space unhitched to a parent star—and it’s just 100 light years away from our own solar system.
While such objects have been spotted in the past, scientists had trouble determining whether they were actual planets or “failed stars” called brown dwarfs. The proximity of this planet makes it easier for astronomers to study it in more detail.
Given the clunky name CFBDSIR2149, this planet was spotted with the Canada France Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea, and the European Space Agency’s Very Large Telescope, in Chile.
Scientists believe it’s relatively young — 50 million to 120 million years old. The object seems to be part of a collection of about 30 young stars called the AB Doradus Moving Group, which drift together through space. We still don’t know how this planet came to be homeless.
“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,” co-author Étienne Artigau of the Université de Montréal told the BBC.